It’s All Journalism: Newsfundr aims to make local news sustainable

Maybe it’s time local news came full circle: Instead of buying a subscription to a newspaper that might no longer exist, readers can subscribe directly to the person covering what’s going on in their town.

Michelle Carter Verna is the creator of Newsfundr, a crowdfunding site for local news in which subscribers pay for a daily or weekly service and, in exchange, someone within their community gets paid to cover the news. Daily subscribers would get fresh articles in their inboxes each morning; those who choose weekly subscriptions would receive, and be funding, longer, more in-depth investigative pieces.

“Instead of subscribing to a news organization where there’s advertisers and editors that are controlling the output, you get to subscribe to journalists, and only the journalists you trust,” Carter Verna said. “As a journalist, you have the freedom to report the news as you see it. You define what your beat is and what stories you write about; as long as you have subscribers that are supporting you, you’re good to go.”

Newsfundr requires any journalist that wants to participate to fill out an application to prove that they are “educated, established, experienced journalists,” not bloggers or “corporate hacks,” she said. “As long as you have clips to support that you have experience in the industry, you have at least three years’ experience and you agree to abide by the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, we will accept you onto the platform.”

Once there, Newsfundr and its journalism board of advisers let the reporters do the work they see fit. Newsfundr provides the platform on which the reporters are published as well as marketing —and training on that marketing—to help the journalists’ promote their work and gain subscribers.

“I think it’s up to the journalist to help build an audience around the kind of work they’re doing,” Carter Verna said.

The draw of Newsfundr, and what sets it apart from systems like Patreon or Kickstarter, is the promise of local news, written by a local journalist and supported by people in the same community.

Local news is “something you can’t get anywhere else,” Carter Verna said. “I think a lot of people are so hungry to find out what’s going on in their community that they’re going to support it, regardless of what platform it’s on. Having it all on one platform where they know how to find it is going to make everybody’s job easier.”

The important thing will be building trust with readers. “You can look at the readers and a lot of readers surveyed showed they trust the institution, they don’t necessarily know or trust the individual journalists,” she said. “You can create your own one-off website and it’s wonderful and the news could be great, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the readers will recognize that. They have a greater level of trust for a nameless person that’s part of the paper. Part of the goal behind Newsfundr is creating that institution people can trust as a way of allowing you to do your own thing and get your news out there.”

Amber Healy

On this week’s It’s All Journalist podcast, host Michael O’Connell talks to Michelle Carter Verna, founder of Newsfundr, a crowdfunding site in which subscribers pay for a daily or weekly service in order to support local news coverage. Journalists can join the Newsfundr platform and get paid for covering local news.

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