On March 29, 2009, The Huffington Post announced the creation of a $1.75 million fund with various donors to pay for investigative reporting. This is similar to what ProPublica is doing - a nonprofit independent newsroom funded by The Sandler Foundation. Headed by Paul Steiger, former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, ProPublica works with a $10 million budget.
According to Jeff Jarvis, news come from a broad ecosystem with many players adding in under many models for many reasons. News organizations will organize news in this diverse new framework, aggregating, curating, organizing.
The move by the Huffington Post could capitalize on a couple of online trends.
Content is distributed
We're used to grabbing and disseminating information where we are - we don't go to specific sites anymore. Instead of clamming up, like AP, the vision of the Huffington foundation plays into this trend and it may encourage content to be reproduced virally for maximum exposure.
I truly believe that the future of public relations, or PR 2.0, is also distributed. People do create the context they need and want - your role is to be present in micro interactions, to function as a bridge between news and the object of the news.
According to Joe Pulizzi, in a distributed content model you want to learn to become a content strategist. How do you move from journalism to content strategist? By learning to pay closer attention to story-listening, which is what journalists should already be very good at doing.
No strings attached
Just like potentially think-tanks and universities, The Center for Public Integrity and The Institute for Justice and Journalism could play a role in this new news ecosystem. Last week we talked about NPR, which for some is not aggressive enough in investigative journalism.
This approach would move away from heavy reliance on advertising, which ends up making the content choices quite biased towards the companies and organizations that keep the business afloat.
Could the Fourth Estate exist as an ecosystem? There's a thought-provoking short movie by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson that predicts its demise with the rise of EPIC. "In the year 2014, The New York Times has gone offline. The Fourth Estate's fortunes have waned. What happened to the news?"