Ricochet is crowdfunding to pay the writers

ricochet-logo-620x350by Rachel Sanders

Paying writers is a key focus of Ricochet’s new model for journalism. The Montreal-based media project has been raising money with an Indiegogo campaign this month, most of which will go towards paying journalists for their work. With 7 days to go, the campaign has raised nearly three quarters of its $75,000 goal.

Ethan Cox, one of the journalists behind the project, says that Ricochet’s new website will launch sometime in the fall. The new site will incorporate elements of sustainable crowdfunding.

“People will be able to sign up to give, say, 50 cents every time an author they like publishes an article, or a dollar every time that we publish an article on a subject that they care about,” Cox told Story Board via phone earlier this week.

“These things are going to be built into the website, right into the architecture and it’s the first time that this type of crowdfunding is being tried for journalism.”

There will be no paywalls on the site, but an annual fee of $25 will give members access to Ricochet’s editorial process.

“One of our focuses will be investigative journalism along with incisive opinion. So if we’ve got pitches from three different journalists for three different investigative stories we might put that to a vote among our members and let them choose what we should fund,” said Cox.

Rates for writers are not yet set but Cox suggested that the range for investigative work might be somewhere around $500 to $1000.

“We’ve said that we’re not going to pay less than $100. So that’s the goal is to be able to pay $100 for a piece and then up depending on complexity and time and all of these different factors,” he said.

“The vast majority of the money that we’re raising is going to pay our writers. So at the end of the day we need to look at what we’ve been able to raise and then that’s obviously going to inform the conversation about what we’re able to pay. The point of this project is to pay journalists as fairly as possible and that’s always going to be at the forefront of our minds and it’s always going to come before paying ourselves,” he said.

Cox said that response to the new project has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I think we’re all dying for new models of journalism and I think that journalists are excited, obviously, because we’re talking about creating a model that’ll accept pitches from any journalist and pay people for their work. But I think what’s really exciting is the experimental nature of the model. And I think what all journalists, whether they’re working or not, really care about is finding a model that works that avoids this track of non-payment for writing,”

Cox cites the proliferation of native advertising as one of the troubling aspects the contemporary media landscape. The other, he said, is the trend of journalists not being paid.

“That’s an inherently suicidal thing to do because right now you’re able to convince young people and college graduates that they should work for free and write for free to gain experience and exposure. But there just aren’t very many jobs around anymore, there are very few people that are willing to pay for writing. So how many years before kids coming out of school wise up to this con game and say ‘no thank you I’m going to go do something else with my time. I’d love to be a journalist but I can’t afford to do it for free’?”

Cox also pointed out that not paying writers leads to other problems in journalism.

“When writing is predominantly umpaid it also means that it’s a privilege which is extended to people who have other sources of income. Therefore you’re really cutting out the voices of the poor and the marginalized and people who need to be spending their time securing their income from the public conversation. For the best interests of journalists, for the best interests of readers, for the best interests of democracy, we think it’s critical that journalists get paid for their work,” he said

This week Ricochet has been publishing some examples of the kind of journalism they plan to publish in the fall. You can read their editorial on Enbridge here. Later this week, look for the first instalment of an investigative series by Mike Lee Murphy on the transportation of oil by rail.

To stay abreast of Ricochet’s progress over the coming months, you can follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

And for more details about their fundraising campaign, check out their Indiegogo page.


Posted on June 13, 2014 at 9:01 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

Leave a Reply