Kickstarting Journalism on China

In recent years, a number of Chinese journalists have turned to crowdfunding to support their work. Now, three new projects are seeking support for projects in China.

At the newly launched journalism crowdfunding site Byline, Joanna Chiu and photographer both of whose past work has frequently been featured on CDT—are seeking $1,000 a month to fund a series of profiles on “China’s Changemakers.” Backers will get access to pre-release and supplementary materials, as well as the journalists themselves.

Despite the restrictions, creative expression still flourishes in China. Large cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, for example, are home to thriving artist and startup communities. Meanwhile, independent journalists and media makers are pushing the barriers of censorship every day, and Internet users continue to find innovative ways to communicate.

In a series of multimedia profiles, we will reach out to the artists, campaigners and entrepreneurs in the big cities and search for visionaries throughout the country to tell the stories of how they navigate difficult circumstances to bring about the change they want to see in China. [Source]

On Kickstarter, NK News is raising money to fund investigations along the Chinese-North Korean border. Rewards range from ebooks, T-shirts, and coffee mugs up to a $10,000 week-long tailor-made tour of .

Working along the Chinese – North Korea border in 2013, I witnessed first hand how divergent the stories on the ground were from what I was seeing on the news at the time.

[…] Today our specialist news site NK News tries to cover as much unique material as we can on North Korea every day, but working from resources generated through a modest subscription system, there are real limitations on the amount of on­-the­-ground reporting we’re able to do in places like the China – DPRK border area.

That’s why today we’re asking for your help. With $16,000 of extra resources this year we’ll send two journalists for extended periods to China. [Source]

Also on Kickstarter, bilingual environmental news site chinadialogue is aiming to raise £2,200 to fund its fifth annual China Environmental Press Awards this summer. In exchange, it is offering print and advance electronic copies of the awards’ journal, and seats at the ceremony.

Environmental reporting anywhere in the world is a challenging profession that requires access to scientific and technological support, as well as media resources. In China, it is further complicated by a lack of transparency, censorship, and the political repression of journalists and bloggers. Reporters may face real personal risks. Citizen journalists have the least protection of all. The China Environmental Press Awards legitimise and encourage these brave individuals.

Previous winners, chosen by a jury of leading Chinese reporters, environmentalists and academics, include a microblogger who challenged steel, paper and chemical companies to disclose environmental information; an activist who challenged his local environmental official to swim in his local waterway, prompting a popular, viral campaign; and a retired forestry official who exposed the destruction of mangrove forests on Hainan Island. [Source]

Both the NK News and chinadialogue Kickstarters note some unusual risks, challenges, and conditions:

While a responsible approach to the assignment means situations like the 2009 imprisonment of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling in North Korea can hopefully be avoided, arbitrary detention on the Chinese side – most likely for short periods of time – cannot be discounted.

Nor can the potential expulsion of our journalists mid-assignment from PRC territory.

[… I]n the event an expulsion takes place mid-assignment, it is possible that only limited reporting outcomes will be assured from the project. [Source]

It is also very important, though unfortunate, that if you are a Chinese citizen, please DO NOT donate to this [chinafile] campaign. We need to stay within the law and can only crowd-fund outside of China. Thank you for your understanding and if you’d like to support us, we welcome your encouragement in the comments section! [Source]