Public interest journalism platform launched

By Sophie Barclay

The Aotearoa (New Zealand) Foundation for Public Interest Journalism will put public interest first.  Photo / Getty Images
The Aotearoa (New Zealand) Foundation for Public Interest Journalism will put public interest first. Photo / Getty Images

Media: Plans for the proposed Aotearoa (New Zealand) Foundation for Public Interest Journalism were unveiled last week at the AUT School of Communications by Scoop Editor, Alastair Thompson.

The Foundation, formerly known as the Scoop Foundation Project which launched in April this year, has been in the works for 11 months. A steering committee of eight journalists have helped to lead the project including former NZ Herald editor, Dr. Gavin Ellis, veteran reporter Alison McCulloch and Science Media Centre editor Peter Griffin.

The Foundation will be based on the principles of:
Truth: To get to the truth - not in an absolute or philosophical sense but in a practical way;
Public interest: The essence of the endeavour is to provide information in the public interest;
Fairness: Issues and people examined as part of projects funded and supported will be treated fairly and professionally; Independence: The Foundation's primary allegiance is to the public and to act as a watchdog over those with power and position with the goal of exposing wrongdoing;
Conflicts of interest: Trustees, staff and advisors will declare potential conflicts of interest and exclude themselves from decision-making roles where appropriate;
Transparency: A desire to operate in a manner than is open and transparent, from editorial policies to funding sources;
Excellence: To fund and support quality public interest journalism.

Mr. Thompson said that he hoped grants would be in the realm of $10,000 for a few months of part-time work, or six weeks of full time work (working out at just over $40 an hour) to $20,000, which could fund a grant of a larger piece involved up to six months of work.

Some of the money would be crowd-funded, said Mr. Thompson, meaning that people's current views around news need to be challenged. "All of the above involves changing the public perception of news being something which is free, need not be paid for, and which is easily and amply supported by advertising dollars. To this end we need to encourage people to value quality journalism and its contribution to society. Step one of this process calls for us to seek to educate society that news is something which is important and worth paying for," said Mr. Thompson.

The need for public interest journalism is more pertinent than ever with the profitability of news and the ability to produce high quality news in serious decline, argued Mr. Thompson back in April. "In recent months the need for a charitable organisation to support news gathering with a larger brief has become very obvious. The hollowing out of experience in newsrooms is only gaining pace."

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