"Crowd journalism" is proving good for our health – and more besides


An encouraging piece about how journalism might thrive again - but depending much more on the support of their readers as activists and interest-groups. 

The editor of Mental Health Today, Barney Cullum, tells the story: 

We regularly see our “crowd” of 70,000 readers solve problems that confound government, the NHS, charities and private providers alike. The crowd illustrate their routes to success on our community website. Reading the mainstream press can leave the impression that issues like the lack of mental health beds for teenagers living with anorexia or suicidal thoughts cannot be overcome.

Our readers have proven this doesn’t need to be inevitable across all of England (could anything be sadder, if it were?) and have shared their methodologies so others can emulate them.

The most popular articles have been penned by junior, regional mental health workers, or people living with mental health conditions themselves. The ideas originate in Bradford, Solihull or Sussex… but can and do spread. The strategies are then applied elsewhere, providing hope and direction to people with pressing mental health needs.

We’ve also had counter-intuitive insights get heavy backing; readers challenging the engrained view that coming off anti-depressants, for example, ‘needs’ to be the ultimate recovery goal. Support doesn’t need to be medical, but it doesn’t need to be paternal either.

Barney sees his publication as aligned with outfits like Positive News and New Internationalist - both of whom have concluded very successful crowdfunding rounds (£200,000 for Positive News, and £700,000 for New Internationalist, now the world's biggest media cooperative). Their appeals were very clearly to consumers tired of existing news behaviour (New Internationalist slogan is "The World Unspun"). Cullum adds:

When The Independent folded as a print title last year it left many of us grieving. The future of The Guardian remains in doubt. This trend depresses many, but not John Lloyd, founder of the Reuters Institute of Journalism. “The long slow death of newspapers is matched with the explosion of material on the Net. It has enormously increased the availability and scope of journalism and, so far, has not diminished any part of it, except its income.”

Writing in his latest book, The Power And The Story, Lloyd concludes that the audience must be “co-opted into the act of journalism” for journalism to become commercially viable again. He reflects that even where readers are involved, special interest sites, supported by ad-hoc networks, have greater prospects than general-interest sites, because they are about and for a community.

So Mental Health Today, in light of all this, are now launching their own crowdfunder. Support them if you can. 

For a great example of a new publication gotten onto its feet by crowdfunding and citizen subscription, see this report on WikiTribune, started by Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales.