The Blank Spot project

Filling The Media´s Blank Spots

By Ida Eri Sørbye

There are many blank spots on the media map. Some places, some wars and some perspectives always seem to keep it off the radar; they are non-events, even though they are just as real as those becoming world class events. The difference is that the non-events never make it to the headlines. A new journalism project provides a solution to produce more quality journalism on hidden spots paid directly by the readers.

 

The Future of Quality Journalism

Meanwhile, media houses are cutting down staff and struggling to find viable models to monetize the new digital reality they have been slowly waking up to. Advertisement and subscriptions online are proving to not keep up with the costs of the way the traditional media houses are organized.

Quality journalism has become the buzzwords, but not in a positive way. Rather in the sense that it might be dwindling away. Good journalism takes time, and it takes money. Neither of which is abundant in many newsrooms today. Therefore it is less room for traditional media to spend more time and money digging deeper into the stories and places inhabiting the blank spots on the media map.

 

A New Way of Funding

A Swedish team of experienced journalists has set out on a mission to help color up some of these spots with the Blank Spot Project. The project states that the need for quality journalism has never been greater than today. They worry about the countries and places that fail to receive the attention of the media, and see it as moral obligation to give a voice to the people who never meet journalists otherwise.

The journalists behind the Blank Spot Project don’t see the fall in media revenues as a crises for quality journalism, rather as a crises for the outdated way journalism is being distributed and paid for today. The Blank Spot Project started off from a crowd funding campaign in February 2015, where they went “from idea to 140 000 euros in three weeks”.

The projects main revenue comes from member´s yearly subscriptions and donations. This is a new way for the public to of fund quality journalism directly. Like other platforms such as the Dutch Yournalism and De Correspondent, it is showing that people are indeed willing to pay for good journalism.

Stories from Blank Spot project
Blank Spot project wants to be a people´s movement, focusing on the forgotten stories of the world. Credit: Screenshot from blankspotproject.se

Connecting with the reader

One of the features with this new way of funding journalism is that the connection to the reader is much closer. The reader is a part of the story from beginning to end, by suggesting topics, receiving updates on the progression of the story and overview of the costs. Actually, the Blank Spot Project states that they will often need the help of the reader to get the necessary knowledge to make the best stories.

The readers become contributors, but not makers of the story. The journalistic quality can therefore be conserved, while still engaging the reader in a meaningful way. The readers are taken seriously, will feel connected and as a part of a special group, and is again more likely to be a loyal financial contributor.

 

The solution

So, is it the solution to the problem of falling revenues in the media world? Surely not. It might however be a small part of it. We still need the mainstream media, and the mainstream media still needs to figure out new ways of making money to secure a flow of journalism to the people.

But, for quality journalism covering hidden and forgotten perspectives and parts of the world, a reader sponsored platform like the Blank Spot project does two important things. It obviously gives a voice to the unheard and the knowledge to the readers. It also however, shows that there is still a considerable interest in this kind of journalism. This gives other media the incentive to strengthen their focus on quality journalism, as they can see that this is something people are willing to pay for.

 

Ida Eri Sørbye is a Norwegian freelance journalist currently pursuing more journalistic brain food at the University of Amsterdam. Check out her LinkedIn and Twitter account.