Romania from ground zero: new media blueprints of a changing society

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Romania from ground zero: new media blueprints of a changing society

Romania
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

New media in-depth reporting about a changing EU newcomer, plus a network-based multimedia project aimed at empowering citizens.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Though a member of the EU for 4 years now and having shaken off the communist regime more than two decades ago, Romania still has a long way to go before becoming a fully functional democracy. Its media remains subjected to many kinds of pressures and, with the persistent economic crisis and upcoming parliamentary elections next year, the perspectives are rather darkening. The crisis brought about significant losses for the foreign media trusts which used to operate in Romania, so most of them decided to step away. In the past year the media saw a return to the ownership of Romanian businessmen, who could not resist imprinting their interests on editorial policies. The latest statistics on newspaper circulation add some more grey to the whole picture: the best selling quality newspaper in Romania is bought, on average, by 41,000 persons each day in a country inhabited by 22 million people. Nowadays, readers are easily deceived by what media decision-makers claim is freedom of speech and objective reporting. Now the chalenge is to regain the public, by returning to the basic role of the media – as a watchdog and public interest service, serving its readers.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We started developing an online journalism project designed as a model of good practices in serving public interest and a laboratory for advancing new media content on a market which has failed to give readers something worth of reading. The starting idea is that in order to behave as good citizens, people need to understand what is going on around them. That means they need to grasp the real dimensions of their past along with the present, plus the untold stories of conflict and consensus – the two major elements that bind societies. In other words people need to become aware of the obstacles and opportunities around them. Metaphorically put, they need a white canvas to draw their future on. The intended project will provide premium editorial content and have at its core 12 major editorial campaigns built around 12 unexplored topics of capital importance. The strategy is to deliver one campaign per month, each one with weekly episodes investigating a topic with the alternative storytelling tools provided by new media. Inspired by the Carnegie-Knight initiative which created News21 (www.news21.com), we plan to develop a collaborative program with the Journalism Department at the University of Bucharest, with the aim of offering the faculty’s best students the chance to actually work on editorial campaigns and experiment with new media storytelling. We’re looking to create an online community around our website and meet offline to debate on issues of current concern and look for solutions together, challenging authorities to fix those urgent problems communities are facing
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

“Romania from ground zero” is the first Romanian journalism project that focuses on comprehensive reporting of issues ignored by the other media and authorities. We build on an editorial strategy based on content quality, in-depth storytelling and journalistic ethics. The website also hosts a permanent section dedicated to social photojournalism. You may be asking what makes us different from other Romanian online media projects. The following things do: • Feature storytelling and civic journalism • The capacity to attract the public that stopped reading media, by returning to the basic role of the media – as a watchdog and public interest service • We target readers that understand that informed citizenry is the fundamental basis of a democracy capable to correct its own ills • Information will be available in 4 types of media: text, infographics, photo galleries and video This is possible and feasible as Romania is still facing urgent issues that need to be fixed, including health, education, environment and minorities. Moreover, located at one of the borders of the European Union, Romania’s foreign policy is of utmost communitarian importance and thus relationships with the neighboring countries should gain in coherence. Plus, Romania is the country hosting several ethnic groups, the largest being the Roma, followed by Hungarians which are often the victims of political maneuvering, prejudice and social myths.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Our general purpose is that of advancing diversity and freedom of speech and providing premium editorial content to an audience that has given up reading the country’s traditional media. An actual offering for this public has yet to appear, as the majority of Romanian online news outlets focus either on quantity reporting, or on niched journalistic products. An example would be www.totb.ro (Think Outside the Box), a website that focuses on environmental issues, hoping to engage the public's awarness on modern living topics. We, on the other hand, build on a “features & views & analyses” core meant to stimulate civic participation and thus push the button for gradual change from bottom to top. Plus, our editorial strategy is erected on two pillars: a social one (health and education issues, minorities and environment) and a historic-regional one (clarifying the recent historic legacy, assessing the current Romanian strategic interests). And because carrying out such a project in just two people is a difficult challenge, we also plan to set up a network to encourage journalists to work as freelancers and collaborate with them project-based.
About You
About You
First Name

Vlad

Last Name

Stoicescu

Twitter URL
Facebook URL
About Your Organization
Organization Name
Organization Country

, B

Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

Please select

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Innovation
Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Idea (you're poised to launch)

How long have you been in operation?

Still in idea phase, but looking to launch soon

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

Our own experience - as journalists previously employed by a central daily newspaper in Romania - is a first hand account of the on-going degrading process that has deprived the profession of its essential role. Our "aha!" moment was when we realised that being journalists started to mean, more and more, serving the interests of those who pay the wages, not serving the general interest of the public. “Do we fit in the mainstream media anymore?” ceased to remain a purely vocational question once our answer was no. Therefore, there was only one way for us to still work as journalists: freelancing. However, the market is underdeveloped in this aspect. So after some days spent "soulsearching" we decided to go on our own and started developing an online journalism project, designed to take full advantage of new media tools. And, ultimately, designed to take the side of the most important player on the media market: the public.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

As we have specified above, our project is still in the development phase at this point. Yet, we hope and prognose that it will impact readers and provide useful and quality contextualized content with the help of modern reporting techniques and reach such a depth and scale that it will make it a journalism milestone. And, why not, reach a regional/European audience as we also plan to run an English section.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

We're embarking on this project with the ultimate goal of showing that journalistic excellence is possible only in the presence of principled and honest in-depth reporting. Therefore, our projected impact within the next years translates into a fully functional democracy, where people know their rights and have the capacity to make informed decisions. You call it "empowering citizens" when describing the causes considered worthwhile of financing by the competition's jury. We call it an opportunity: in 1-5 years hundreds of thousands of Romanians will be following our reporting, debating on their issues, reacting to social injustice and calling on authorities to fix current problems. In other words, they will become good citizens, being served by an independent media outlet.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Establishing a strong reader community

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Carrying out the editorial plan, which has at its core 12 major campaigns (one per month)

Task 2

Continuous innovative reporting coroborated with partnerships on civic projects of other organizations

Task 3

Meeting our readers in offline events focused on providing solutions to the problems emphasized by our editorial campaigns

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Attracting advertisers and establishing a strong network of freelance collaborators

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

Converting the strong readership base into a source of financing

Task 2

Innovating: selling video ads along with other unconventional marketing tools

Task 3

Growing: developing a network of freelance journalists with whom to collaborate project-based

How many people have been impacted by your project?

Fewer than 100

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Sustainability
Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured

Hybrid model

What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

This is a new media project that needs financial support to grow as we are still in the developing stage of this idea. We could not actually say that something has hindered our success. However, one door closed has been the corporate world in Romania which doesn't seem interested in financing independent media projects.

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

Let's start with a paradox: the future is here. Our solution does not only adapt to the changing and constantly evolving relationship between information-technology and media, but also capitalizes on it. Our project is structured on a mix of quality reporting and innovative storytelling through up-to-date technologies.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

Jokingly put, as one famous song says: together we stand, divided we fall. This means failure is not an option.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

As co-subsidizers we can list the Open Society Foundation which recently financed one of our proposed campaigns. Also, we’re in the process of evaluation for obtaining two grants from the Fund for Investigative Journalism (www.fij.org) for other two campaigns – one about the selling of Romanian Jews and Germans; the other one about the failed integration of the Roma community in Eastern Europe. We’re also in the evaluation process at the Robert Bosch Foundation and at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Moreover, grant seeking applications will be submitted to the following organizations: The Fritt-Ord Foundation, The Charles Mott Foundation and the Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe. We also plan to sell ads, banners etc.

Tell us about your partnerships

We are a team of two journalists at the moment, but we plan to expand and become partners with other organizations on specific projects or topics, such as Roma integration policies in Romania or reviving the civic spirit in universities across the country. Moreover, we are looking to develop several civic partnerships that correspond to our editorial strategy.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

Two permanent journalists
The freelance network on a collaboration basis
Plus the partnership with the University of Bucharest through which students will get trained and work with us on a volunteer-basis

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Investment, Marketing or media, Collaboration or networking, Pro-bono help (legal, financial, etc.).

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Innovation or ideas.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list

As we've mentioned before, our needs come down to the bare necessities of life. Mainly, it's about financing our project and help make it sustainable. That's why we mentioned as needed resources investment and marketing. Also, any pro-bono help would be more than welcomed.

Summary
Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

An online project focused on civic journalism which provides premium content using new media tools.

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