Reuters, the global information company, has given a $100,000 grant to NewAssignment.net, a web-driven initiative being launched by New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen, which seeks to spark innovative investigative journalism by inviting the public to have a more active role in reporting. The grant is the largest the start-up organization-to debut in Spring, 2007-has received to date.
“We believe that the Internet is the perfect vehicle for galvanizing the public to become more involved in reporting,” said Chris Ahearn, president of Reuters Media. “Reuters is hopeful that NewAssignment.net will foster the kind of hard-hitting journalism that the public is hungry for, and will be more inclined to trust.”
“NewAssignment.Net will try to do the stories that the mainstream media is unlikely, or unable to do,” said Rosen. “This underwriting grant from Reuters’ is a pivotal step for us and will help build momentum toward a successful launch next year.”
Reuters’ grant will support a full-time editor for NewAssignment.net, which is intended to help encourage a new kind of collaborative journalism made possible by the falling cost of organizing people to share information over the Internet. Citizens will be invited to suggest assignments, donate money to support reporting, and help in gathering facts.
Professionals and amateurs will cooperate to produce work that neither could easily manage alone, using “open source” methods to develop assignments and help bring them to completion. The belief is that people will be more inclined to donate if they can participate in the gathering of information and see how stories are shaping up. “We’re just as interested in those who can donate their time, their hard-won knowledge, or a few hours of fact-checking,” Rosen said.
Rosen came up with the idea for the program based in part on the widespread disillusionment within the press. For example, in 2004, a mere 15 percent of national print reporters cited journalism’s traditional watchdog role as something the profession did well. Moreover, the same survey, conducted by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, showed that nearly half of national journalists believed the press is too timid.
Reuters will have no editorial control over NewAssignmet.net projects, nor will it hold right of first refusal on stories. In addition, Reuters Media has not agreed to carry any content produced by NewAssignment.net, although it may consider doing so on a case-by-case basis.
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