The Watershed Media Project is a new initiative to research and develop grassroots funding, production and promotional models for independent, public-interest journalism and media.
Watershed will grow by achieving a series of small, simple, incremental goals over longer periods of time; by periodically publishing research, analysis and commentary using blogs and social media; and by encompassing and managing Newsdesk.org and Newsfunders.net as test platforms for its overarching hypothesis, which goes something like this:
Grassroots funding and production models for journalism can more effectively serve key public-interest needs than institutional news media and monetized news products.
Watershed Media is responding in part to “Post-Industrial Journalism,” a crucial 2012 manifesto by Emily Bell, C.W. Anderson and Clay Shirky, in which they memorably declare that “there’s no such thing as the news industry anymore,” and call for “new forms of organization” within which to develop and drive the practice of journalism in our democracy.
Significantly, the use of “watershed” as a metaphor for how media and culture are created and funded is also resonant with commonplace media-reform and future-of-journalism metaphors such as “information ecosystem” and “news ecology.”
These are easy metaphors, even seductive, and yet taking them seriously begins to compel questions. What, for example, are the funding watersheds that sustain these media-based ecosystems? How does one measure and ensure their health and sustainability?
That’s ground that needs to be broken, and a conversation that can start here.