Advocacy group launches effort to fund freelance stories by laid-off journalists about Big Tech

Advocacy group launches effort to fund freelance stories by laid-off journalists about Big Tech
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The Save Journalism Project, an advocacy group that works to expose how tech companies have harmed the journalism industry, on Tuesday told The Hill it is launching an effort to fund freelance stories about Big Tech's effect on vulnerable communities.

The group is aiming to raise $10,000 through Kickstarter. That initial amount would fund five stories, and the Save Journalism Project plans to continue fundraising after hitting that goal. 

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“One of the biggest challenges with freelancing is funding the travel, the research, and the time it takes to write the story, all before you can even pitch it – especially for journalists suddenly laid off and adhering to an unexpected budget," John Stanton, a co-founder of the Save Journalism Project and former D.C. bureau chief of BuzzFeed News, said in a statement to The Hill.

"With this Kickstarter funding, freelancers will have the means to follow the lede, get the story, and educated readers before big tech’s death grip decimates journalism completely," Stanton, who was laid off in January, added. 

The advocacy group was founded by two journalists, both of whom were laid off in recent months, to bring attention to how tech platforms’ stranglehold on digital advertising revenue harms local and online news publishers. 

Since launching in June, the group has funded a round of advertisements raising awareness about the issue and compiled resources for beleaguered journalists struggling with mental health issues.

According to the Kickstarter page, the group is now planning to commission at least one story exploring the issue of "news deserts," or areas of the country where local newspapers have folded. About 1,300 communities across the United States have lost their local papers in the last 15 years. 

The Save Journalism Project will approach laid-off freelance journalists to write the stories, and then it will work to place those stories in U.S. publications.

The campaign will also fund a story about "the explosive growth of the digital advertising 'Duopoly' of Google and Facebook, who together combine to gobble up nearly two-thirds of all digital advertising revenue."

"Just a decade ago, news publishers made more in advertising revenue that Google and Facebook put together," the group said. "Now, the Duopoly make more than eight times what all news publishers earn from advertising. Simply put, Google and Facebook have a death grip on the journalism industry."

Critics have accused Facebook, Google and other social media sites of contributing to the decline of local news as advertisers turn to the social media platform instead of small newspapers. Users around the world have started to use Facebook and Google as their main method of consuming news, while local newspapers flounder.

In response, both Google and Facebook have offered new features or tweaks to their algorithms that might help bolster news reporting.

Facebook has worked to launch a service, "Today in," aimed at giving users access to local news — but the company said earlier this year they were struggling to offer the service widely due to a lack of local newspapers across the country. 

Last month, Google said it will begin promoting news articles that feature original reporting in its search results, an effort to push users to more “authoritative” outlets. 

In a short video, Stanton said the aim of the freelance initiative will be to shed light on the "tens of thousands" of journalism jobs that have been lost and how that has affected "the ability of the public to understand what’s going on."