Anchal Vohra, a journalist working with a leading Indian news channel until recently, has been living in and reporting from Lebanon for a year. She’s been taking stock of the widespread tragedy in the region due to war and terrorism.
Anchal wants to travel into the hinterlands of the war-torn nations and cover every aspect and front of the Syrian war. But one challenge she faces is that of inadequate funding. What if she could raise funds through a crowdfunding platform so she could do the stories that need to be done?
Thanks to Bilal Zaidi's crowdfunding startup, Crowdnewsing, she will now be able to.
A journalist himself for nearly 14 years, Zaidi saw a decline in reporting abilities in most news organisations. There isn’t enough original content being generated, he says. “The reason for this is that most news organisations want to report on stories that bring them more TRPs and please advertisers. Not enough funds are dedicated to news organisations,” Zaidi added.
Working with the Avaaz Foundation in New York made him realise that there was scope to mobilise people for stories journalists want to tell and help them raise funds for that – similar to what Avaaz foundation does for its social advocacy work.
So with the idea of encouraging reporters to build their own campaign to raise funds through crowdfunding, he started crowdnewsing.com
The process is simple. If you, as a journalist, have a story to tell, you make a pitch or a video around your idea and put it on crowdnewsing’s platform which will then market the idea across social media platforms. If your ideas impress or inspire people, they can make a donation.
And how does Crowdnewsing make money out of this? Every time a journalist raises funding on its platform, Crowdnewsing gets 10% of the amount raised. It is currently running its third campaign and has so far raised around Rs 65,000.
While crowdnewsing is not inclined towards any form of ideology, no story that may incite violence or intend defamation will be accepted. It has laid out a 5-point editorial guideline for the same. Also, every campaigner must raise at least 50% of the targeted amount to get that into their bank account. If that requirement is not met, the money is returned to the donators.
The first experiment was Bilal Zaidi's own campaign, which was an opinion poll in Uttar Pradesh to gauge the priorities of the Muslim Community of UP during elections. Having raised around Rs 24,000, this poll was then published in The Quint.
The next step for Crowdnewsing will be tying up with independent news organisations to publish the stories of journalists raising funds on its platform. It is currently in talks with three organisations including The Citizen for this.
The first target is to bring on board about 100 journalists raising an average of Rs 50,000 per year. This, Zaidi says, will take care of all operational costs.
Crowdnewsing will also soon run a marketing campaign on social media to get the word out. “We want people to know how cool reporting is. There are a lot of people who want to write. We want to enable that,” he says.