Occasionally asked questions
Why are you promoting individual journalists instead of content?
We think this approach works better in places with little or no press freedom. While funders in the West obviously care about whom they’re giving their money to, those journalists are rarely under direct threat to their livelihood, and the fundraising emphasis tends to be on topics. Press Start, on the other hand, focuses on giving journalists who are often under threat or squeezed in some way a chance to do their best work. You’ll be introduced to the journalists, to find out why they chose this often-thankless profession and why they stick with it, which we hope will establish a connection between reporters and potential donors that doesn’t exist on other crowdfunding sites.
How do I know what a journalist will write about if I don't see a specific article proposal?
Many Press Start-funded articles will likely cover topics that are controversial in the home countries of the profiled journalists – taboo themes that other reporters shy away from covering for political or other reasons, or investigations into criminal activity. For that reason, we won’t tip our hand to those who will be directly affected by publicizing the articles before they have even been reported.
In any case, it’s also important to remember that potential donors will see the track record of particular journalists, with descriptions of past successes, so they will have a pretty good idea of their main writing interests and their history of delivering effective journalism.
Can I still donate if I don’t want to fund a specific journalist?
Sure, we understand that you might be hard-pressed to pick one amazing journalist from all those we’ll be profiling (or you just don’t have much time on your hands). But if you still want to lend a helping hand, there are other ways:
You can contribute to the PS mutual fund, a pool of contributions from multiple donors used to “top up” what has already been donated to individual journalists and help them reach their goals. The PS management team will make the final decisions about the recipients, in consultation with our partners and advisory board. If, for example, we’re confident that a project could have wide-ranging impact in a particular country, but the campaign has not, for whatever reason, gathered the necessary momentum, we might step in with the mutual fund to help hit the goal.
You can take out a PS subscription. If you really, really like what we’re doing, then you can arrange for a regular contribution on a monthly or annual basis, with the amount up to you. Funds from PS subscriptions will go toward covering operating costs and to the PS mutual fund.
What if I want to fund a topic or country/region? Can I do that?
Sure. Just donate to the PS mutual fund (explained above) and specify that you would like your contribution to go toward funding a topic of particular importance to you (such as education reporting, environmental journalism, investigative reporting, etc.). The same goes for funding journalists from a particular country or region. Just let us know!
Are journalists being funded or media institutions?
Only the journalists, sort of.
That’s to say that we’ll be supporting both freelancers and staff reporters.
While the journalists will receive the funds directly, their news organizations will benefit by getting content subsidized through Press Start. That could free up some capital for these outlets to re-invest, whether in hiring new staff, modernizing outdated equipment, or providing trainings to enhance the quality of their journalism.
In essence, with the journalists as the conduit for funding, we’re offering the use of our crowdfunding technology and international promotional chops for free to local media outlets. Many, if not most, of them might not have the technology or international contacts to take advantage of crowdfunding on their own.
How will you be sure that special interests don’t influence/fund journalists?
Won’t happen. In the first place, it’s important to remember that neither funders nor Press Start influence editorial decisions regarding what journalists write about. That is left up to the journalists themselves (if they are freelancers) or to the journalists and their media organizations (if they are employed).
We’ll also put a limit on the amount a single person can contribute to a single journalist to prevent the impression that any Press Start-funded journalist is in someone’s pocket.
The other key to preventing unwanted influence is transparency. We require that each donation be made by an actual human being, one with a verifiable identity. And while we don’t necessarily share this information with the wider public – unless that person wants the recognition – Press Start staff and the journalists will be able to see who is funding them.
Press Start reporters wary of unwanted funding from a specific source have the option to reject an individual donation as they see fit so as to preserve their journalistic credibility.
How do you determine the amount a journalist will seek during a campaign?
We don’t, really. We’ve set some limits at the outset because we don’t want to aim too high with the initial campaign amounts until Press Start gets big and famous (and has a lot more traffic). But other than that, we’re asking journalists to come up with their own budgets to cover the costs of their time and other relevant expenses to do their stories, such as travel. The result will depend on the going rate for journalism in their countries, the cost of living, the type of story (i.e., investigation vs. feature, video vs. print), and a bunch of other factors. In some cases, we might check with our local partners to ensure that the proposed budget is realistic for the pitch.
What if a campaign fails to reach its goal?
Imagine a journalist from a repressive country does his or her very best to spread word of the campaign, and the Press Start team does the same, but that journalist still doesn’t quite hit the target. A pity, right? Especially since the pledged funds could still go a long way toward financing an investigation or other important work. With that situation in mind, we’ve decided to pay out funds that have exceeded 70 percent of a campaign’s goal – though we’ll be doing our best to help journalists reach their goals with the PS mutual fund and matching funds.
No matter whether a journalist earns 30 percent or 80 percent, though, we’ll be working with him or her, post-campaign, to figure out what didn’t work: Was it the pitch, the video, the topic? That’s the type of coaching we’ll be providing for PS journalists that they wouldn’t be receiving from your typical crowdfunding platform.
What if a journalist doesn't complete the proposed article?
While we will carefully screen our journalists, let’s face it: people get sick, homes flood, dogs eat homework. We know that personal or professional obstacles can interfere, and obligations can remain unfulfilled. It's also possible that a time-consuming investigation doesn't turn up publishable journalistic evidence. When that happens, donors will have the option to get their invested funds back, but we hope that most will realize that risky investigative journalism doesn't always lead to concrete results – at least initially.
We will also provide certain safeguards to prevent abuse. For example, funded journalists will receive only part of the collected donations before they begin work on their articles; the remaining funds will be provided in a final installment once they’ve finished.
How will this work? When does my card actually get charged? And how much money does the journalist actually get?
When you decide to fund a journalist, you choose how much to donate (via our secure, easy-to-use payment system). Your card is not charged until a particular journalist reaches his or her funding goal.
You can be sure that the vast majority of your contribution will go where you want it to go: into the pockets of the journalists themselves. We cut out the middlemen and work directly with the journalists, so that you’re making the biggest possible difference with whatever amount you choose to invest.
Still, we have to keep the lights on. To make Press Start a viable business model for supporting journalists, 10 percent of each donation will go to maintaining and improving the platform, as well as covering payment processing costs. The journalist gets the rest.
You mentioned matching funds?
Yep. We are working to ensure that every dollar pledged on Press Start is matched by a dollar from a major donor, typically a foundation or other institution. Already, the National Endowment for Democracy has agreed to provide matching funds for PS journalists, mainly from Eastern Europe.
In this way, everyone basically wins. The journalist has an easier time reaching his or her goal. The crowd sees every dollar they pledge turn into two, providing a huge motivation to donate. And the donor ends up funding journalists/topics with proven crowd appeal. Nice, right?
How will you reach potential investors?
We're counting on a mix of international and local donors, a combination of pure philanthropy from those passionate about independent journalism and support from local citizens – those directly affected by the stories we’re trying to get funded. Part of it is a matter of civic literacy, convincing people that supporting quality journalism is their responsibility as citizens. Each society already has a core group of people who understand that responsibility, both at home or abroad (in the form of members of the diaspora who want to help improve the situation in their native countries).
Before Press Start launches, we’ll also enlist a long line of partner organizations to help spread the word internationally. We’ll appeal to free press and media development organizations to notify their members about Press Start and encourage them to get involved. Those contacted so far have been positive about the idea and we believe many will come on board, as our mission of assisting embattled journalists in tough spots around the world mirrors their own (and they don’t run competing sites).
On the local and regional level, we’ll be similarly counting on journalism associations, press freedom advocates, and media development organizations to publicize the platform. These groups will be key to helping us find, vet, and promote journalists in their areas and appealing to local donors to lend support. But crucial to generating any real funding on the local level will be the efforts that profiled journalists and their media outlets make in encouraging committed local readers to pitch in and combine their forces with international donors to fund the stories that need writing.
I want swag. Will there be swag?
You bet! Depending on the size of their contributions, donors will get:
Exclusive access to the journalist's social media feed, which will include status updates on each article and any juicy nuggets of information (i.e., “the story behind the story”) (not technically swag, we know, but still nice)
“Badges” showing their PS donor status that they can place on their websites, blogs, etc. Different badges will show different levels of giving
E-books or PDFs of the collected, crowdfunded articles, with a special note of recognition to those contributors who helped make the articles possible
When you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness
Local media that feature several journalists on the platform may also offer their own perks, from free subscriptions to special recognition.
Will any journalist be allowed up on the platform? How will you screen people?
While we’d love to support any and all journalists (especially those just starting out), we recognize the importance of maintaining a certain level of professionalism. The success of Press Start, and thus its overall impact on local and international journalism, will be directly tied to the quality of work being published by Press Start journalists. We want to ensure that each journalist we profile on our platform already has a track record and therefore the potential to do amazing work if given the financial opportunity.
We’ll do that by cultivating close working relationships with well-respected journalism organizations all over the world. These groups will know better than anyone which journalists deserve support – those with a reputation for quality reporting, independence, and fairness, even under difficult working conditions.
With the help of these partner organizations, we’ll find the right kind of journalists to populate the site. And we’ll indicate on each journalist's profile which organization has screened that particular individual.
How will you protect the identities of journalists working in closed societies?
The identities of journalists working in the most dangerous situations will be kept strictly confidential. A journalist deemed by Press Start or a partner organization to be in potential danger will be allowed to use a pseudonym on the site. The information on his or her profile will be as accurate as possible while still keeping his or her identity a secret. Press Start will not release this journalist's information for any reason, and we will do all in our power to protect the safety of our journalists. While transparency is key to the success of a social business like Press Start, the security of our journalists always comes first.
What will happen to the articles that people write? Will I get to see them? Will they be in English or local languages?
The primary goal of Press Start is to help sustain quality independent journalism on the local level, all around the world. That means that the vast majority of articles produced through Press Start will be published in the journalists’ home news organizations and in their mother tongues. Funders will, of course, be able to access the content they helped fund even if they can’t read it in the original language.
Press Start will also have an online publication, where the content we and our partners judge the best or most important will be translated into English. In the future, translations will be expanded to include more content and more languages, depending on demand.
The content will also be syndicated, and there will be the option for larger, international publications to republish articles for a fee. While syndication is part of our business plan, we won’t retain exclusive rights to the content, but will encourage the journalists themselves to market what they’ve produced to earn additional income to further sustain them in the profession.
Is my donation tax-deductible?
Um, no – but we’re working on that. We are in the process of registering as a nonprofit organization in the United States, but that can take as long as xxxxx. As soon as that happens, donations by U.S. citizens will become deductible.