Around the world, near and far away, there are journalists trying to report the truth for citizens like you. You already know the importance of a free press to public health, clean politics, a fair judiciary – anything that a society would consider worthwhile, really.
And you probably also know that all over the globe autocrats and bullies are beating and handcuffing reporters just for doing their jobs. The campaigns for imprisoned journalists by groups such as Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists deserve all the support they can get.
But there is another, vast group of reporters and editors who usually don't make it into those campaigns. Consider:
- the scrappy journalists who are trying to practice independent journalism in places such as Russia, Turkey, and Tanzania, where governments do their best to stifle critical voices
- the reporters all over the world – in Hong Kong, Montenegro, Mexico, and Algeria, to name a few – whose newspapers and television stations are starved of advertising revenue as punishment for straying from the official line or covering the opposition
- the defiant freelancers in Azerbaijan or Burundi who want to write but can’t find enough independent publications still around to make a living.
Whatever other hurdles they face, these journalists and their employers nearly always sit on the precipice of poverty, where one stiff wind – a predatory libel judgment, a withdrawn government advertising contract – can send them tumbling over the edge.
So guess what? They might try to avoid libel suits or ticking off some thin-skinned minister. At worst, they become beholden to business people, autocrats, even the petty tyrants of City Hall or the court clerk's office. That's why some societies can't have nice things – like public health, clean politics, and a fair judiciary.
You know where this is going, so here's our pitch: This is a big, widespread problem that, yes, money can fix.
Cash means freedom. With cash, for instance, Jean-Chrysostome Kijana could help his online newspaper – eastern Congo's first – delve deeper into the links between mining and local conflict, or Ruslan Myatiyev could expand his Alternative Turkmenistan News, which offers journalists an independent (nongovernmental) venue for reporting from one of the planet's most closed societies.
Press Start is the first initiative aimed at helping reporters and editors in emerging democracies and the developing world to produce stories largely intended for a local audience – journalists who might not have the experience, foreign-language (that is, English) skills, or audience to crowdfund on their own.
While we’re starting small, trying to raise funds for single projects, the big plan is to provide these brave journalists with ongoing support, allowing them to plan for deeper investigations or series rather than just one project at a time.
So how about helping them to make a difference for what would cost you a few pennies a day?
Just know that the Press Start campaign – attached to no big-name victims and confined to media that most affluent supporters have likely never heard of – doesn't offer the usual gratification to donors. You won't read about it in the headlines or possibly even see the fruits of your investment, unless you read or speak the languages of the journalists supported.
But rest assured that your contribution means that stories that matter to local communities – stories with a chance to improve the situation on the ground – will see the light of day.
That’s a lot of impact for the price of just one lunch, trip to the gym, or movie ticket.