Could Co-operatives Save Newspapers — And Investigative Journalism?

from the how-about-it-Rupert? dept

A couple of weeks ago, we reported that Rupert Murdoch’s paywall at the London Times isn’t looking like a huge success. That won’t come as a surprise to Techdirt readers, but does raise the question: if newspapers can’t use paywalls alongside ads to fund journalists, what can they turn to? Here’s a revolutionary idea: why not let the people who know and care most about the title — the readers — get more closely involved? That’s precisely what the Berlin-based newspaper Die Tageszeitung, affectionately known as “Taz”, has done. Here’s the Guardian’s description of how it came about:

For years, Taz — circulation 60,000 — was funded by state handouts. But with the fall of the [Berlin] Wall in 1989 came a drop in subsidy — and by 1992, the paper faced bankruptcy. Enter the Genossenschaft, or co-operative: a group of concerned readers who valued the paper’s independence, or its ability, as one has it, “to put its finger into the wounds of our economic system”. The group invested its savings in the paper, and the paper was itself saved.

That bold move seems to have worked: today, the co-operative has a healthy 11 million euros (about $14 million) in the bank. It’s owned by 12,000 readers, each of whom pays a minimum of 500 euros (about $650) to have an equal say in setting overall policy, discussed at the annual general meeting. Interestingly, that egalitarianism is also to be found in the newsroom:

“You’re a very free journalist here,” says deputy editor Reiner Metzger. Reporters are free to follow their own hobbyhorses, which he says makes life tough as an editor. “People argue very hard. We don’t have a hierarchical structure where someone can say: shut up now.” Salaries are pretty flat, too. Metzger is paid only [$650] more than the most junior reporter — though he gets additional support for his children.

It’s a fascinating approach, one that also seems to address the concern that in the age of the Internet, hard-hitting investigative journalism is a luxury that can no longer be afforded. Sadly, it seems unlikely that Rupert Murdoch would be willing to take a pay cut to around junior reporter levels to try it out for the Times.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and on Google+

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: taz

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Could Co-operatives Save Newspapers — And Investigative Journalism?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Zakida Paul says:

Murdoch Media is hardly a shining example of investigative journalism. Unless, of course, you happen to like one sided reporting, celebrity gossip and hyperbole.

The best sources of news are independent websites and blogs so I hope the brightest investigative reporters will realise that and ply their trade that way. They will be respected so much more for it.

Jake says:

I’d just like to point out that there’s nothing stopping the blogosphere from doing their own investigative journalism. Techdirt dabbled in it a while back during a magnificent sporking of some guy who was trying to set himself and his company up as the Next Big Thing in telecommunications; it was several years ago so I forget the exact details, but it was easily the funniest article Mike’s ever penned.

Laroquod (profile) says:

I don’t get this whole dilemma. People are doing investigative journalism all the time; it just isn’t being done at newspapers. In fact, many of the newspapers in world have largely stopped investigating anything seriously.

Rather than try to shore up (with donations and co-ops) an institution that doesn’t seem really focused on investigating things anymore, the logical solution is to direct cooperative cash to those who are actually *primarily* focused on investigation (as opposed to primarily focused on retyping press releases). And these days that tends to mean single-issue bloggers and disruptive website operators.

There will always be money to support newspapers because the people who write press releases need someone to distribute them. We don’t need to pay for that: the establishment already has that covered, and if you think the elites are going to let newspapers (the voice of the establishment, after all) die, and let bloggers control the narrative, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. The elites will operate their newspapers at a loss before they’ll let that happen.

Therefore, we simply don’t need to worry about saving newspapers. It’s a gigantic red herring dangled in front of the public by people like Rupert Murdoch to distract attention from their dying relevance.

What we need to do, is bring the training to where the genuine desire is. Bloggers are the ones who are truly motivated to get to the bottom of things — so we should be pushing for them to trained in better journalistic techniques. Amateurs can learn — but an establishment leopard cannot change its spots.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
16:10 David Braben, Once Angry At Used Games, Now A New Business Model Embracer (33)
18:40 Artists Embracing, Rather Than Fighting, BitTorrent Seeing Amazing Results (10)
15:41 Vodo's Big Brother Bundle Shows How Bundles Can Improve The 'Pay What You Want' Concept (12)
23:06 Price Elasticity Can Work: Dropping Ebook Price To $1 Catapulted Year-Old Book Onto NYT Best Seller List (58)
16:03 The Good And Bad In Chaotic eBook Pricing (35)
05:18 Game Creator Finds That Knockoffs Can't Match His Awesome Game (33)
23:09 The Value Of Kickstarter: Connecting With Fans On-The-Fly (18)
10:02 Massive Growth In Independent Musicians & Singers Over The Past Decade (101)
23:54 Cool New Platform For Supporting Artists: Patreon, From Jack Conte (23)
05:46 A New Hope: How Going Free To Play Brought Redemption To Star Wars MMO (48)
11:16 There Is No Logic To The Argument That Zach Braff Shouldn't Use Kickstarter (105)
06:00 When Startups Need More Lawyers Than Employees, The Patent System Isn't Working (55)
03:14 Hitchhiker's Fan-Site Started By Douglas Adams Shows Why Authors Shouldn't Panic Over Derivative Works (27)
09:21 Patents As Weapons: How 1-800-CONTACTS Is Using The Patent System To Kill An Innovative Startup (54)
07:19 How EA's 'Silent Treatment' Pushed The SimCity Story Into The Background (55)
13:30 Deftones Guitarist: People Who Download Our Music Are Fans, They're Welcome To Do So (29)
13:10 Macklemore Explains Why Not Being On A Label Helped Him Succeed (29)
03:45 Successful Self-Published Ebook Authors Sells Print & Movie Rights For $1 Million, But Keeps Digital Rights To Himself (43)
11:53 Musician Alex Day Explains How He Beat Justin Timberlake In The Charts Basically Just Via YouTube (52)
00:09 Publishers Show Yet Again How To Make Money By Reducing The Price To Zero (42)
20:13 Flattr Makes It Easier Than Ever To Support Content Creators Just By Favoriting Tweets (61)
16:03 Case Study: Band Embraces Grooveshark And Catapults Its Career (21)
19:39 Amanda Palmer On The True Nature Of Connecting With Fans: It's About Trust (131)
16:03 Kickstarter-Funded Movie Wins Oscar For Best Documentary (89)
13:41 It's Fine For The Rich & Famous To Use Kickstarter; Bjork's Project Failed Because It Was Lame (20)
17:34 Connecting With Fans In Unique Ways: Band Sets Up Treasure Hunt To Find Fan-Submitted Sounds In New Album (10)
07:27 Just As Many Musicians Say File Sharing Helps Them As Those Who Say It Hurts (131)
20:00 Skateboard Legend Stacy Peralta Demonstrates His Latest Trick: Cashing In By Going Direct-To-Fan (13)
23:58 Wallet Maker Shows Everyone How To Make Their Own Awesome Wallet (16)
11:27 $274 Million Raised Via Kickstarter In 2012 (8)
More arrow