Journalism is a form of public service, critical to all of us. Unfettered access to verified information is essential for a healthy information ecosystem – essential for democracy. Yet, journalists face threats to their physical safety and online wellbeing, broken revenue models, the closures of local news outlets, and declining trust among readers. Misinformation and disinformation campaigns in the media challenge collective notions of ground truth. They also challenge the bedrock and meaning of an open internet.
Now is a critical time to support journalists in their efforts to provide verified information, investigate our shared challenges, and bring essential health, environmental, and political facts to everyone. While Creative Commons (CC) cannot address many of the challenges journalists face, we believe that principles and practices of an open internet can help journalists in some of their public interest work. From crowdsourcing information on open source platforms to using CC licenses to increase access to a particular story–applying open internet practices can help free the flow of critical information to empower journalists and citizens around the world. Before engaging, we needed to understand more about journalists' challenges.
In this vein, we initiated the Ground Truth in Open Internet project to better understand journalists' needs through global survey work, focus groups, Q&A discussions and training with journalists, activists and nonprofit news sources. Below, we share methodology and findings from our research and engagement. We learned that journalists around the world face an uncertain future, as they transition away from an old model of funding journalism and face unprecedented challenges. Journalists voiced a need for training and support to harness open internet practices, but such effort must be balanced with new, working revenue models. Most news organizations' current lack of a business model allowing for (1) open access to content and (2) stability and security for content producers obstructs quality journalism. More work is needed to demonstrate how quality journalism can be funded, while keeping it accessible and open to people around the world.