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$4,822
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61
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Fri, December 18 2015 9:20 AM UTC +00:00

Press Start: Crowdfunding stories that matter

The first global crowdfunding platform designed specifically to support journalists in countries where the press cannot report freely.

Press Start: Crowdfunding stories that matter

The first global crowdfunding platform designed specifically to support journalists in countries where the press cannot report freely.

$4,822
pledged of $23,000pledged of $23,000 goal
61
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Fri, December 18 2015 9:20 AM UTC +00:00

About

Do you live in a country where the media are not beholden to political or business interests? Where journalists are free to write what they want, without fear of fines, beatings, imprisonment, or worse?

If so, consider yourself one of a privileged few – a mere 14 percent of the world's population, according to Freedom House.

Today, the vast majority – more than six billion people – live in countries where journalists risk their careers, and sometimes lives, to report on governments, businesses, and other powers, exercising what is a democratic right in other nations.

While we can't end the repression, we can help keep alive this flame of independent journalism by supporting those journalists brave enough to keep writing, despite the threats. 

They deserve our attention and support – especially as authoritarian states and movements grow bolder in the world and are ever more ready to clamp down on those who would hold them to account.

In response, we have introduced Press Start, a revolutionary way to fund independent journalism in emerging democracies and societies that are not free, brought to you by an organization with more than 15 years' experience working with journalists under threat. 

Now is the time for transformative initiatives. Without reporters serving as watchdogs, corruption and bad governance will flourish, anger will build among disgruntled and disenfranchised citizens, and fragile states will continue to deteriorate, with unforeseen consequences for the rest of the world.

Yes, you are part of the solution.

Press Start is all about creating a new way to fund journalism in countries with nonexistent or struggling democracies, places where a quality free press is arguably needed the most. If you believe in that ambitious goal, please donate to get this project off the ground and sustain it.

The bigger the donation, the bigger the journalistic impact. But even small amounts are welcome. And even if you don’t have the means to donate, you can still play a crucial part in this movement by telling everyone you know about our plans. Every follower on Twitter, every friend on Facebook, every shared bit of news about Press Start increases the likelihood that our efforts will succeed.

Below, please find more details about the project. 

Global press freedom has dropped to its lowest level in over a decade, with grave implications for democracy itself. Internet freedom, too, is in decline. 

Yet considering the state of the world, the free flow of information has never been more crucial, and there are talented reporters everywhere who are willing to risk their careers, even their lives, to ensure it. 

Among the threats they face: 

  • Libel lawsuits or even violence if they dare to criticize top officials or investigate the business practices of politically connected companies.
  • Harassment of their families if they don’t back down. 
  • Fabricated criminal charges designed to silence them. 

Yet crippling political and financial pressures mean independent media struggle to survive, to produce quality journalism, or even to pay their reporters – no matter how skilled and courageous they are. 

The result is that many of these journalists need to take side jobs – non-journalism-related – to make ends meet, or even quit the profession outright because they have no way to support their families. That represents a huge waste of potential that could be dedicated to investigating topics crucial to their societies. In effect, it’s not only the more immediate threats that keep many journalists from reporting important stories – it’s the simple lack of money. 

This lack of vibrant, independent journalism in turn removes a key watchdog over governments and stunts democratic development. 

Press Start will become the first global crowdfunding platform for reporters in countries where the press cannot report freely, potentially revolutionizing the way independent journalism is funded in the developing world and countries in transition. 
 

The site will connect journalists seeking to report the stories important to their communities with people around the world who believe in a free press and appreciate its importance to democracy. 

Past experiments in crowdfunding journalism have usually limited their ambitions to raising funds for a single project. 

But Press Start will raise funds for a series of articles spread over several months, offering some stability and a lifeline for journalists working under difficult circumstances, to practice the watchdog journalism so necessary for democratic development.

How then is this different from past and present crowdfunding platforms focused on journalism?

  • A specific niche of profiling reporters working solely in emerging democracies and the developing world who will mainly produce articles in local languages for local consumption and impact.  
  • A central objective of searching out and highlighting reporters who would not have the capacities (experiences, language skills) to crowdfund on their own.
  • A restriction on who will be profiled (not everyone can simply apply) to preserve the quality and credibility of the site.
  • A priority placed on evocative journalist profiles, with extensive information about the individual reporters.
  • An emphasis on longer-term support, not one-off articles or investigations.
  • A close partnership with like-minded organizations around the world that are committed to the same goals and together can achieve collective impact.
Details below!

1. Identify the journalists

We’re teaming up with leading media development and training organizations to locate talented, dedicated journalists. They’ll vouch for and verify journalists according to their past performance, commitment to independent journalism, and potential to create wide-ranging impact with their reporting.

2. Profile the Journalists

Journalists who pass through the screening process will then create, with our help, detailed profiles on Press Start. They’ll describe the areas of coverage they want to pursue and the package of content they’ll deliver for the funding goal (whether features, news, investigations, multimedia, etc.)

3. Donors worldwide fund 

Once we post a profile, we’ll launch a month-long campaign to raise $2,000 – a standard amount for every reporter. We're betting that once people get to know these journalists through their profiles – see and hear what's inspired them to tell truth to power and why they keep at the job despite the obstacles – they’ll be prompted to give so that ground-breaking stories, which would otherwise not be told, come to life. 

4. Articles go live 

If the campaign is successful, each journalist will work on the proposed content package over the next four months. His or her work will be published in media otherwise lacking the budget to afford journalistic investigations, by partner organizations, and on blogs and other platforms. The Press Start website will also publish selections to highlight the excellent work that featured reporters will be doing. We’ll track the impact of every article that gets funded on Press Start, working with the journalists and partner organizations to assess what happened after publication. Did the article spark a debate, change public policy, raise awareness of a neglected issue?

We are compiling profiles of the first wave of journalists to be featured on Press Start. They hail from several continents and a wide variety of countries (Afghanistan, Belarus, Congo, Honduras, Lebanon, Macedonia, and Ukraine). Here are some of them: 

Habib Battah is a Lebanon-based investigative journalist, filmmaker, and author of the blog beirutreport.com. Habib's recent investigations have covered demolitions of archeological heritage sites; the unregulated privatization and destruction of public spaces; and the lack of transparency and accountability in public projects.

Wendy Funes is a journalist for C-Libre, a Honduran organization promoting freedom of expression, and coordinates their Investigative Unit. She has conducted numerous investigative reports on youth, corruption, and organized crime, sexual exploitation in Honduras, and other highly sensitive social and political subjects.

Ruslan Gorbachev is a rising star of independent journalism in Belarus, where he currently works as a reporter at Gazetaby.com. He covers a number of issues and in various formats, from news and investigations to interviews and opinion pieces. One of his stories last year revealed a scheme to force store owners to buy overpriced trash cans from a pre-selected company.

Zaklina Hadzi-Zafirova is co-founder of SCOOP Macedonia, a center for investigative journalism. Earlier this year, she received a prize for a story that looked at the impact of pollution on local cases of cancer and the authorities’ lenient attitude toward the polluters.

Volodymyr Torbich is an investigative journalist from Ukraine and an editor at the Rivne Investigative Reporting Agency, where he has uncovered corruption, abuse of power, and human rights violations. He also works as a mentor to young investigative journalists.

As described below, funds donated to our Kickstarter campaign will be used partly to help the first profiled journalist reaching their funding goals even before the platform becomes well known.

The Press Start team is an international group of experienced journalists, social media experts, and free press advocates.

Jeremy Druker (founder and CEO) is a native New Yorker who has lived in the Czech Republic for more than 20 years. He is executive director and one of the founders of Transitions (TOL), a publishing and training NGO (more below). He is also an adjunct professor at New York University’s Prague campus and an Ashoka fellow.

Chris J Gauthier (editor) is a multimedia producer whose work on subjects such as immigration, food security, and the environment have appeared in The Huffington Post and Newsweek, and on PBS. Previously he was a reporter and editor with NewsChina magazine in Beijing.

Ernad Halilovic (product designer) is a Bosnian software engineer and designer. He has worked for a number of technology companies in the United States and has helped design campaigns for Demand Progress and the Fight for the Future.

Honza Pav (operations manager) is a Czech social media expert who has worked for seven years for local and international media agencies. He recently co-founded Lovebrand, which specializes in building the brands of small- and medium-sized companies.

Clare Speak (editor) is a British journalist and editor who has written about everything from international trade policy to social justice and labor rights issues for a variety of publications.

Sarka Truxova (community manager) is a native of Prague who has worked for a decade at Transitions in marketing, communications, and business development.

Jaroslav Valuch (project leader) is a Czech expert in social media activism and communication with crisis-affected populations. He has worked with dozens of initiatives from all over the world. Recently he led a Czech governmental campaign against hate crimes and hate speech.

Eric Kao and Demetrius A Beckham, students at NYU's Prague campus, are our dedicated interns. 

The project is an initiative of Transitions (TOL), one of Central Europe’s leading journalism trainers and a Czech-registered, non-profit organization. As we intend to run Press Start as a social business, based in the United States, we have established a new company in Delaware to collect payments on behalf of the journalists profiled on the site. We will also be seeking non-profit status in the U.S. in the coming months.

Founded in 1999, TOL has implemented dozens of journalism training and freedom of expression projects in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. The organization also operates a popular news site on the post-communist region, Transitions Online, which was a founding member of the Guardian’s New East Network. As a well-respected NGO with a solid background in democracy assistance centered on media support, TOL has long-running relationships with many free press and media development organizations, investigative journalism groups, and donors who care about these issues.

Some of us behind Press Start have been running journalism training projects for almost 20 years, and thousands of journalists have gone through our programs. Those experiences have taught us what it’s like working with journalists who struggle against repression every day, and we’ve designed a platform precisely tailored to their needs.

But in some ways this project is a response to our growing frustration that training just isn’t enough, that we can’t offer our alumni many suggestions about how they can fund their work after they’ve passed through our programs. You can have the smartest, most qualified, most courageous reporters, but they still need to earn enough money to make ends meet and feed their families. And in many parts of the world that remains a problem.

Another obstacle is simply access. Why, we’ve been asked, don’t these journalists just go on Kickstarter themselves and raise the necessary cash? Chances are that they’ve never heard of crowdfunding, let alone Kickstarter. And they often don’t have the foreign-language skills to search out and connect with potential funders around the world.

Our advisory board brings similar expertise to this project, comprising media and business professionals from a wide range of backgrounds who have been guiding us along the way.

Chairman

Gary Regenstreif, former editor at large, Reuters. 

Members

Danforth Austin, former vice president and general manager, The Wall Street Journal; former director, Voice of America.

Alan Chelko, Cisco International Corporate Development.

Robert Cohen, managing partner, Benson Oak Capital.

Joerg Floeck, former president, Global Sales & Customer Services, Thomson Reuters.

Graham Griffith, public radio producer and independent media strategist

Chouchou Namegabe, co-founder, South Kivu Women’s Media Association (Congo).

David Rennie, Washington bureau chief and columnist, The Economist.

Iryna Vidanava, co-founder and project director, CityDog (Belarus).

Grant support from the National Endowment for Democracy is helping us get us off the ground, but we need additional funds to put the finishing touches on the site and then help sustain it until the platform generates enough donations to cover costs. That will take time. 

We plan to make Press Start a sustainable social business within three years, financed from 10 percent of donations, advertisements, and article syndication. Our business plan was developed with help from McKinsey consultants as part of an incubator program called the “Globalizer,” launched by Ashoka, the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs (Press Start founder Jeremy Druker has been a fellow since 2011).

The funds raised from this campaign will cover the following costs:

1. An initial fund we can tap to assist our first profiled journalists in reaching their funding goals even before the platform becomes well known.

2. Personnel costs. We’re a small team, but we still need to pay people to coach the selected journalists on creating effective profiles; manage our community of partners, donors, and other supporters; and promote Press Start through social media and other means.

3. Marketing and tech costs. Critical to the platform’s success will be spreading the word among key target groups, both through generating high-quality marketing material and participation in journalism-related events. And we’ll need to be sure that our server and IT costs keep pace with the expected growth of Press Start.

 Belarusian Association of Journalists (Belarus)

 Center for Investigative Journalism in Bosnia

 Center for Investigative Journalism in Croatia

 Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia

 Pištaljka (Serbia)

 IREX-Europe (France)

 Memo 98 (Slovakia)

 Res Publica Foundation (Poland)

Samir Kassir eyes (SKeyes) Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, (Lebanon)

 Regional Press Development Institute (Ukraine)

 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Czech Republic)

 Scoop Macedonia

 Transitions (Czech Republic)

 Women's Media Association (Congo)

Risks and challenges

We realize that various challenges will arise once we launch the platform, some of which we've anticipated and others not. But, as noted above, Transitions, the organization behind this initiative, has over 15 years of experience in implementing journalism training and freedom of expression projects. We can't say we've seen it all, but we've mitigated many risks over the years and successfully overcome challenges that have reared their heads just when you didn't expect them.

And if we can't come up with a solution, chances are one of our experienced partners can.

Press Start is, after all, a project built around the concept of collective impact – that only by teaming up with like-minded organizations worldwide who have a shared understanding of the value of a free press can we hope to have large-scale impact. This common agenda of aiding and defending courageous journalists and this shared vision of crowdfunding as a mechanism to build international solidarity and support will bind the network together.

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    Good Karma and a Press Start sticker for your laptop to show that you definitely know how to press start.

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    Participation in a top-notch online course on one of the following topics: data journalism, social activism 2.0, or communication, all taught by members of Press Start and our advisory board; plus all the perks above.

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    A personalized postcard for you and only you (yes, a real, old-fashioned postcard) from one of the Press Start journalists, plus all the perks above.

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    The Best of Press Start: Receive a hard-copy, limited-run edition of the Best of Press Start 2016, a compilation of stories from our first full year of operation; plus all of the perks above.

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    Learn with Press Start: Attend the renowned TOL training course in Prague for aspiring foreign correspondents, plus all the perks above.

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    Dinner Cruise in Prague: Join the team for dinner and a cruise in one of Europe's most beautiful cities, plus all the perks above.

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    Corporate-level sponsorship for companies that want to reach our readers. Your brand will receive prime placement on our website, stories, and emails for a period of six months; plus all the perks above.

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Funding period

- (30 days)