Jose Zamora is a Journalism Program Associate at Knight Foundation
Investigative journalism helps democratic societies work transparently. When investigations work, they unveil corruption and other obstacles that may hinder the development of a community. But investigative journalism is expensive, and as organizations face difficulties in their business models, it's becoming more difficult to fund.
Investigative Journalism was the topic of this year's Austin Forum, hosted by The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin and the Media Program of Open Society Institute.
The event is dedicated to raising journalism standards in Latin America and the Caribbean. Participants also discussed challenges facing journalism in the region, and ways to overcome them.
Journalists and journalism organizations from 14 countries were represented at the meeting, including participants from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Venezuela.
Investigative journalism challenges in the hemisphere were discussed from different perspectives ' importance, need, quality, risks and funding ' one of the key perspectives was the funding of investigative journalism or how to create a new model for sustainable investigative journalism.
There's a need for a new business model that will allow the existence of this kind of reporting, participants said. But, "Who is going to fund investigative journalism and how?"
The forum showed that throughout the region, media organizations and their newsrooms are doing less and less investigative journalism each day, given the financial constraints news organizations continue to face.
Knight Foundation is partnering in different projects that seek to find a new model for sustainable investigative reporting. Through its Journalism Program, Knight Foundation is searching for alternative business models that will allow this vital form of journalism to continue playing a key role in democratic societies.
One of the new models for financing investigative journalism is being developed through a project called Spot Journalism or "Spot Us." The project will provide a new way to pay for local investigative reporting by "crowdfunding," or soliciting financial support from the public. Crowdfunding will allow an individual or group to take control of news by sharing the cost to commission freelance journalists. It uses the principle of micro lending ' the model used by Kiva ' to fund investigative journalism.
How does spot.us work?
An individual or journalist creates a pitch that outlines an untold story in a local community.
Members of your community vote, with their money, on what stories are most important to them.
A journalist researches the facts and puts together an article. Editors provide check-and-balance on the story.
Spot.us publishes the story in its news feeds and works with local media outlets to have the articles published more widely.
This is one example of how Knight Foundation is trying to find the answer to the question: Who is going to fund investigative journalism? Hopefully, you can help us find other models that will benefit your neighborhood, your community, and the world.
If you want to learn more about what Knight Foundation is doing to help in the search for new business models to sustain quality journalism, please visit us online at the Knight Foundation and the Knight News Challenge Web sites. And if you think you have the new model for sustainable journalism or for investigative reporting apply to the Knight News Challenge today at: www.newschallenge.org If you want to learn more about the Knight News Challenge, the kind of projects Knight Foundation is funding and learn how you can apply, please visit the Knight News Challenge Web site or the Knight News Challenge Garage.
And don't forget that Knight Foundation is having a Meet-Up today in Vancouver and tomorrow in Seattle. You can find details below: