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.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Jay (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:24pm

    Ok... That's cool. How do you set up a coop here in the US? I could do wish more people would look into better news reporting here in the US. Having only six media outlets for people to discuss the news is rather limiting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Oct 17th, 2012 @ 12:26am


    My project was along these lines - letting readers crowdfund the journalist. Almost finished it too... :-/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), Oct 17th, 2012 @ 1:37am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 2:07am

    Re: 1p2U

    That is a stupid name for a website.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 2:18am

    Socialism is the answer! Collective ownership, that's the ticket!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Jeff Brown, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 2:20am

    We're already ahead of the curve

    Just a heads up... we've been working on just for that purpose.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 3:12am


    Yes. Socialism. Like owning stock.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Jake, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 4:20am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Ninja (profile), Oct 17th, 2012 @ 4:37am

    Seems reasonable. It fits in what I thought the news outfits could do: nourish a community with forums and so on. They could even take a reader idea, write on it and thank that reader in the official article, you know to make readers feel closer to the news making.

    Sounds like an idea for the future.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 4:57am

    Re: Re:

    No, socialism, like the readers owning the paper. They can own the cows and the pigs and the farms and land too. Socialism and collectivism, all good, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 5:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    If you own shares of stock, you technically own bits of the company. Some types of stock will even give you the power to alter the course of the company.

    If I was as obtuse as you, I could call that Socialism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Laroquod (profile), Oct 17th, 2012 @ 8:11am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 8:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    If the only people who owned the stock were customers, I would wonder.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Tom Stites, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 8:52am

    Co-op model in the U.S.

    Check out, which is well along in its effort to launch pilot news co-op in Haverhill, Massachusetts. The site also offers links to a Nieman Journalism Lab piece that explores the possibilities the co-op model offers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Oct 17th, 2012 @ 8:55am

    Re: Re: 1p2U

    its a stupid name for a news site; but a great name for a site if you are into golden showers...
    hee hee hee

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    birkin, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:28am

    Good topic

    I like this topic. I think this is a difficult choice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Karen Millen Solid Color Ireland, Jun 6th, 2013 @ 10:54pm

    I have to say that the data listed here was the most entire which i found anywhere. I am certainly bookmarking this to return back and read later.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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