The future of “pro-am” journalism has received a huge boost with the announcement that Reuters has given US $100,000 to fund the NewAssignment.net project, founded by New York University professor Jay Rosen.

As Crikey reported a month ago, NewAssignment.net is an internet based project in which readers will commission the journalism they want to see performed. Professional editors and journalists will work on the project in collaboration with the readers.

Seed money for the project came from a $10,000 US grant from Craig Newmark, the man behind the free classified advertising site Craig’s List. Newmark was stung into action by claims that his business model will destroy the viability of newspapers and the journalism they carry.

Now Jay Rosen, one of the most important thinkers about journalism over the last few decades and the founder of the citizen journalism movement that swept the USA in the 1990s, has drawn real money into the pool with the grant from Reuters – which apparently comes with no strings attached. Reuters will not have any rights over the journalism NewAssignment.net produces, nor will it have editorial control.

Rosen says, “NewAssignment.net is a not a plan for a company; in fact, it’s closer to a charity, an editorial engine anchored in civil society itself, rather than the media industry or journalism profession. …[It] can be on friendly terms with Big Media, which it is is not trying to destroy or supplant.”

The Reuters money will be used to hire the first editor, who will start early next year. Says Rosen: “It’s going to be a fun job. …The idea is to draw “smart crowds” — a group of people configured to share intelligence — into collaboration at NewAssignment.net and get stories done that way that aren’t getting done now. By pooling their intelligence and dividing up the work, a network of volunteer users can find things out that the larger public needs to know. I think that’s most likely to happen in collaboration with editors and reporters who are paid to meet deadlines, and to set a consistent standard.”

Peter Fray

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