Crowdfunding: Can we really buy a newspaper?

The opportunity to have a say in what is printed in your daily paper, and simultaneously rid the world of corrupt news moguls? Sound a little too good to be true?

The opportunity to have a say in what is printed in your daily paper, and simultaneously rid the world of corrupt news moguls? Sound a little too good to be true? Well Laurie Fitzjohn’s ‘Let’s Own The News’ would say otherwise.

In a bid to return some ethical integrity to the tarnished titles under News International, following Rupert Murdoch’s phone hacking scandal, this campaign has generated a solution in crowd-funding.

The campaign is backed by The Young Foundation who endorse the principle of channelling ‘social innovation to tackle the roots causes of inequality.’ The rationalising behind the campaign is to destabilise the media empires of five main families that currently own around 80 per cent of our national newspapers, supposedly undermining the democratic element of journalism.

They hope to raise around £100m in funds, of which £50m would be used to initially buy the paper and then an extra £50m to return them to profitability.

Time for change? 

Indeed they raise a valid point that change is necessary following such a media shake up since the hacking scandal broke a few years ago. Observing the depths that this whole saga has gone to, from the endless trials to the instigation of the Leveson Inquiry, it seems that this radical call for upheaval has been a long time coming.

Fitzjohn seems to appeal to the fact that people have previously been apprehensive to act under the insurmountable supremacy of these media barons and have finally been given the opportunity to enact change. In addition to this ethical reasoning he seems to believe that this initiative will economically attract the public to get involved since these have been loss-making papers following the controversy of the past three years and will therefore be cheaper to buy.

Overlooking the major practical pitfalls of this strategy, it does make logical sense to regain the trust of the public by ensuring complete disclosure as to the content of the paper and how this content will be acquired.

Who would actually be in charge?

One of the most honest ways to do this would be to allow the public complete access and input which could really only be done with part ownership of the company. Aside from this, it possibly seems a little on the utopian side of things to truly work under total consumer ownership. Any decisions would need the unanimous agreement of all of its 1 per cent shareholders, who most likely would lack the business and journalistic experience to succeed.

Or it would then be up to this public ownership to appoint a managing director or CEO figure to make decisions in their best interests. This would of course be running the risk again that such figure heads would move in a similar corrupt direction.

However whilst the method may be misguided and possibly a little impetuous for today’s media market, and undoubtedly for the public the campaign is trying to gain the support of, the values behind this campaign are justifiable.

A spokesperson for News UK said that The Times and The Sunday Times are not for sale.

Evidently the world of journalism may not be quite ready for a crowd-funding revolution just yet. However when over 80 per cent of the public agreed papers should be answerable to an independent body following the Leveson Inquiry, media tycoons should not rest too soundly, as the call for overhaul is definitely resounding, even if not frenziedly as in Fitzjohn’s campaign.

What do you think of the campaign? Have your say in the comments section below.