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Collaborative models of journalism offer sustainability

March 1, 2022 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

The Center for Cooperative Media sees collaborative journalism as a way to share power among journalists, readers and others to deliver information that centers and addresses people’s needs. They believe that collaboration can be particularly impactful when it involves the community.

Researchers Joy Jenkins and Lucas Graves explore collaborative journalism in practice at a local level in Europe. Their report, Do More with Less: Minimizing Competitive Tensions in Collaborative Local Journalism, offers a local approach to journalism that serves a community rather than delivers a news product to an audience.

Their research analyzes three collaborative journalism experiments in Europe:

  • The Bureau Local in the U.K is a nonprofit collaboration of journalists and non-journalists (data scientists, academics, citizens, etc.) engaging in topic-driven reporting projects.
  • L’Italia Delle Slot” in Italy is a collaboration among one legacy, and two start-up news organizations focused on a single topic.
  • Lännen Media in Finland is a co-op collaboration among regional news organizations through shared content production and distribution.

They conducted 29 interviews among journalists, senior management, community organizers, data analysts, technical experts, and others.

Collaboration models

Each of the three publications offers different collaboration models: 

Lännen Media 

This is a co-op model where similar news organizations join on specific topics and do not compete. They manage daily reports via video conferencing and skype with editors and share a content management system to follow what they work on in the different newsrooms. 

This setup allows journalists to rotate into the cooperative from the regional newsrooms for two or three years and then return to their original masthead. While larger newspapers contribute more, all members share the costs of running Lännen Media.

L’Italia Delle Slot

A contractor model that establishes a commercial contract to dictate the collaboration among organizations with specific areas of expertise. In this case, a large legacy news publisher combines efforts with two data-journalism-focused start-ups. In 2013, Effecinque, a start-up, began researching the increase in slot machines in Italy. Effecinque partnered with Dataninja, a data-journalism network, to investigate if slot machines in Italy correlated to the rise in gambling addiction. Effecinque and Dataninja partnered with GEDI Visual Lab to produce a web portal, data visualizations, videos, and other interactive content to showcase the details of the investigation.

This approach allowed the two start-up organizations, GEDI and 13 local newspapers, to define their roles based on areas of expertise. Further, the 13 local newsrooms provided local knowledge to tell the stories about their community using the data set. 

The Bureau Local

This project-based collaborative model relies on a nonprofit to act as a central hub that coordinates and supports parallel investigations. It’s often a diverse collaboration from regional BBC bureaus to commercial, chain-owned newspapers to independent local dailies, community-owned sites, and freelancers. Many organizations share data managed by a NGO nonprofit newsroom focused on public interest. This also allows for non-journalists such as data scientists, designers, and others to work together. This type of collaboration often coordinates investigations across national and local levels to help drive discussions among local and national politicians and policymakers.

The digital media ecosystem is a great environment to start collaborations such as establishing networks across localities and shared resources. Jenkins’ and Grave’s research illustrates three collaborative journalism models to showcase each of their unique approaches.  Lännen Media’s co-op model shares resources across regional newspapers, “L’Italia Delle Slot’s” contractor model engages expert journalists on short-term investigations. The Bureau Local NGO model manages a shared database by a nonprofit. Each model offers a viable model for publisher sustainability – maintaining a healthy structure of shared economics, goals, and healthy competition.

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