As I’m preparing to pitch my idea for an independent media organization that is both profitable and impactful to my Independent Media class at Ithaca College, I have thought about what specific aspects of an independent media organization are most important in 2017. Now, effective independent journalistic outlets can’t just be isolated or interact with their community. They can’t just be hard-hitting or engaging. And they can’t just have objective reporters or advocates.
Adam Westbrook wrote about effective journalism start ups in a 2009 blog post. He listed 17 checklist items for every startup to consider when developing their product, platform, and organizational structure. And I think that the three factors listed above—community-building, engagement, and balancing objectivity—are the most important factors for outlets creating effective journalism and stories on internet platforms. In short:
The outlets that have the most reach and impact, and more importantly, tell the fairest stories, are outlets dedicated to communicating with their reader base. This is important on a journalistic and entrepreneurial level—both of which have to be considered when launching a journalism startup.
At the same time, it’s incredibly important now for outlets to focus on the style and format of their content as much as the content itself. Outlets like The Intercept do this well—and I’ve written about this more in relation to new platforms like motion graphics.
Finally, more and more in recent months, journalists are coming forward denouncing objectivity. All serious journalists still recognize their primary responsibility to report the truth and represent all voices—however, it’s time for journalists and media consumers to move past the naive concept that journalists don’t have bias, and can approach any story without bias. Now, however, journalists can use this step to tell more effective stories by acknowledging their bias in a public way, and committing to transparency.
These are my opinions, following months of research into different independent news outlets for my Independent Media class, and following years of being invested in creating independent journalism. But I think many people equally engaged in independent media, modern journalism, and internet technologies would agree with the need for these focuses for journalism startups.