In a journalism climate adverse to costly, time-intensive investigations, Belfast writer Lyra McKee is hoping to defy the odds by using the power of the internet to crowdfund her book about the last weeks of murdered South Belfast MP, Rev Robert Bradford.
Democracy depends on good investigative reporting. When society loses its muckrakers, the powerful and the crooked get away with their wicked deeds. But the digital age has not been kind to the traditional institutions of journalism. Newsroom budgets continue to decline and resources for investigative journalism—a lengthy, litigious, and research-intensive craft—are scarce. So it’s not surprising that philanthropic organisations, concerned about the implications for democracy, have stepped to the fore to pick up the slack.
But there is a big question about sustainability. The not-for-profit model cannot carry the burden of funding investigative journalism on its own. On the one hand, the rise of the internet has deflated the once mighty newspaper industry. But on the other, through social media, digital media, and crowdfunding platforms, it has opened up new opportunities for innovative and resourceful journalists tenacious enough to make the economic realities of the industry work.