Crowdfunded news, Rob Crilly and Darfur

by Jon Thompson on March 8, 2009

I came across a great post the other day by Christopher Albon over on his blog War & Health titled ‘Why You Should Crowdfund David Axe‘. For those of you who don’t know David Axe he is one of the principal writers over at WIRED’s Danger Room which always has some great posts covering humanitarian issues. In the article Chris outlines why we, the public, should independently fund David’s activities and makes an argument for why crowdfunding journalism is a good idea all around. What better way to get the news we want than to pay for it? Last year the New York Times brought up a few tepid arguments as to why crowdfunding isn’t such a great idea but also pointed out some groups that think it is. I think it is a fantastic idea.

That fact was rammed home for me this week when Mercy Corps Press Release landed in my inbox:

Mercy CorpsThere is always a lot of banter about people getting kicked out and while some folks certainly deserve it this latest action was way out of the norm and a stunner for the aid community.  Thirteen NGO’s were ordered to cease operations and leave the country immediately.  Peter over at The Road to the Horizon and Paul at have write-ups (here and here respectively) covering the situation.  Sadly, the only person really covering the situation is a guy named Rob Crilly who works for The Times and who is stranded in Khartoum:

Rob Crilly

Most of us have been following his Tweets which are full of great material.  The fact that Rob is one of the few people pumping info out of a key site during a major humanitarian event is both refreshing and depressing.  Refreshing in the sense that one man can make such a difference and produce so much useful information but also depressing since he is pretty much the only one doing so.

Why couldn’t we scrape together ~$5,000 and ship David Axe into Sudan to share duties with/relieve Rob Crilly and get some information that means something to the humanitarian community.  As a journalist and a first class writer I am wondering if Paul Currion wouldn’t be willing to take on the task.  While I am not sure if we could actually get him in to the country I do think we could raise the necessary funds.  I’ve got an NGO with 501c3 status here in the US and I am always looking for meaningful projects.  I would happily open it up to donations for some relevant journalism as long as my Board agrees to it.

What do you all think?  Is crowdfunding news the future of journalism?  Would you fund a story about the situation in Sudan?

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