Tomorrow I turn 28. But before you leave a quick and dirty “Happy birthday!” greeting on this blog, Twitter or Facebook wall, please consider doing something else extremely important to me first.
Consider donating a small sum of money to the future of journalism.
It could be $1 or $100 for all I care, but this is a way to show me that your birthday wishes aren’t just hollow pats on the back. And to set the example, tomorrow I will be laying down a symbolic $28, a buck per year of my existence, for each of my two favorite journalistic causes: Spot.Us and The Public Press. It’s not much, but it’s what I can afford. Please consider doing the same.
Here’s a bit about them:
- Spot.Us (http://www.spot.us) is a Web site where journalists in the Bay Area can pitch stories, and you, the public, can choose to fund their freelance wages. You can choose the subject you think deserves more in-depth reporting (might I suggest the pitch to uncover problems embedded within the Oakland Police Department? It only needs $135 more!). The organization was founded by my good friend David Cohn and funded by the Knight News Challenge and, naturally, by people like you.
- The Public Press (http://public-press.org) is a noncommercial, nonprofit news organization in San Francisco, much in the same vein as these organizations, but with two added goals: 1) to publish in both print and online formats, and 2) to eschew advertisements to prevent the conflicts of interest that have historically dogged journalism’s objectivity. The project was founded by Michael Stoll, and I’ve been fortunate enough to begin serving an internship there. Donate here (and be sure to select “The Public Press” from the drop-down menu.)
Both of these organizations are starting out in the San Francisco Bay Area, and depending on their success, they will expand other areas as well. That’s why they need your support now more than ever. (Coincidentally, before I even sat down to write this, Chris O’Brien of the San Jose Mercury News posted a plug for the exact same two groups.)
Now, neither of these organizations claim to be the answer that will save all of journalism. News organizations, and particularly the printed product, are trapped in a death spiral that comes along with the collapse of the business model that has sustained them for so long. If dead trees give way to e-paper (like Amazon’s Kindle), that’s great news for everyone — except for the many newspapers that won’t be able to survive until that happens, or the many people who neither have Internet access nor can afford e-paper devices. The biggest problem, though, is that newspapers were the last institutions left that funded quality, in-depth and investigative reporting, the kind of reporting democracy needs to have a well-educated and literate voting public. You can go online to get your news, but Google News is nothing without the backbone of newspapers. These two organizations are doing everything they can to supply both the online and the print worlds with the kind of journalism democracy needs.
I hope this doesn’t come off as too preachy, and rest assured, if you can’t afford even $1 to these organizations, I completely, 100% understand. But in the midst of this chaos, it’s now our chance to completely rethink what journalism is, what it should be, and what it means to society itself. These two organizations do just that.
And while I’ll be busy celebrating my 28 trips around the sun, hopefully your contributions today will someday help both these superb organizations celebrate theirs.
“If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.” -Thomas Jefferson