New innovation, old gaps: Why I made this news website

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Did you just arrive here and wonder what the hell is Through the Cracks? Who’s in charge here? WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN??

My name is Khari Johnson and I’ve sunk a lot of time into researching, writing and thinking about crowdfunding in journalism ahead of the launch of Through the Cracks. Before that I spent the better part of a decade working for online news startup companies.

Why?

I’ve always been interested in sustainable paths for the future of local journalism. That’s why I worked for hyperlocal news outlet Patch and before that for regional online news startups and before that as a freelancer. That’s why I haven’t worked in a newsroom since 2008.

These days I don’t work for any particular company but I still very much want to be a part of finding answers so I started to follow crowdfunding campaigns by journalists happening around the world.

Ergo, Through the Cracks (throughcracks.com), a blog whose name invokes a phrase often heard in life and journalism to describe something that deserved to be treated as important but was ignored or forgotten.

Through the Cracks follows crowdfunding campaigns to report the compelling, successful, innovative or otherwise interesting stories born out of crowdfunding. I’m most excited to write this blog because crowdfunding can help fill gaps left by old media and fund innovative ideas by new media entrepreneurs.

Even in our social media-infused world, I’m afraid a decline in full-time journalists means more stories will fall through the cracks, stories that often involve underrepresented communities or require extensive investigative reporting.

In some instances crowdfunding has demonstrated the ability to step up and fill the gap.

As someone who has worked in online news and reads a fair share of studies about changes in journalism, I know that in a lot of places the demand to produce more content or “feed the beast” is growing. Meanwhile the measurements for success and what a reporter is expected to do continue to change. In that environment, you can’t always look as deep as you want and stories can go unnoticed or fall through the cracks.

Crowdfunding is still pretty new but I don’t believe it can solve all our problems. I do believe a single crowdfunding campaign can lead to the rise of a startup news outlet, projects or individual stories by freelance or part-time journalists.

And crowdfunding will continue to grow.

More journalists with a following, accrued institutional knowledge or just a passion for reporting may venture out on their own and can look to the crowd for funding.

Earlier this year there was a lot of hype about the launch of VoxFirst Look Media and FiveThirtyEight. People who cover the media began to ask if investment in these startups signaled the start of a new age of media.

Maybe, but I am so much more interested in the companies that grow from the bottom-up, the kind that may eventually look to the crowd for help to grow. Read through a few blog posts and you can tell why.

Through the Cracks is just getting started but I get the feeling we can serve a purpose. I haven’t come across anything else exactly like it yet.

Currently Through the Cracks looks at projects primarily in North America and Europe. Next stop (with the help of additional contributors): Latin America and a lot more photography.

I’m not a newspaper doomsday theorist. A lot of them will die (recent study put a date on extinction of newspapers by country; America first in 2017) but that’s not the same thing as the death of news. The news business is changing, and it’s going to be a big shift. Exciting new ideas will continue to spring to life.

Like everyone else I have no clue how things will shape out but I do know the crowd will play a role, working with journalists who want to expose, innovate, tell stories, serve the public and build brands.

Through the Cracks wants to be there to tell the story.

If you like the cut of that jib, please like the Through the Cracks Facebook page or follow us on Twitter @crowdjournalism. We could use your support.

Need to know more about my background? Visit kjohnsonmedia.com.

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Khari Johnson
Khari is founder and editor of Through the Cracks: Crowdfunding in Journalism. He also writes about bots and artificial intelligence for VentureBeat. He has built news startups in the U.S. and Europe for the last decade.

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