Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake (disclaimer for benefit of my libertarian friends: this post is not about liberal politics) wrote on April 21st about Marcy Wheeler, linking to a FDL campaign to raise $150,000 so that Wheeler can set up shop as a full time writer with research support, a travel budget, etc., to continue breaking the kind of news stories that the NY Times picks up on. To date $62K has been raised.
This approach is an important advance on previous attempts to fund independent news writers, for reasons Hamsher sums up nicely:
Every time donors decide that there is value in what bloggers do, there is a class of donor “gatekeeper” who siphon off the money and create projects they control that get no traffic except what bloggers generate by linking to them. They act as “consultants,” advising organizations to their own benefit with all the attendant conflicts of interest. It’s “fake blogging,” it’s not real. But it happens over and over again. That’s just how the system works, and I’ll be writing more about it.
Indeed. I used to work for one such “new media startup” that managed to do far less on a budget of several million than Wheeler and others like her have accomplished to date without any outside funding. Whatever your politics, this is an interesting model for a low-overhead way of paying for journalism. Hamsher is right that most efforts to date have funded the creation of so-called “content-driven” websites where content is treated as a commodity and an afterthought.
I am not a FireDogLake reader by any stretch, but the campaign does motivate me to go put something in independent foreign correspondent Michael Totten’s tip jar.
NB: Notice that I refrained in this post from using the terms “blogger” or “journalist.” I just don’t have the heart for that debate today, and the words now have all the freight of “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” “Writer” will have to do for now.