The traditional business model for journalism is in crisis. As newspapers around the world fold by the day, the industry is scrambling to find a means not only to pay its way — but also to meaningfully inform citizens.
But in Chile, one new-media outlet is pioneering a movement that promises to not only keep citizens informed, but make them the fundamental actors is the newsmaking process. Perhaps most importantly, it has proved it can turn a profit, thereby helping create a model which will ensure a sustainable future for quality reporting.
Mi Voz (My Voice) is a citizen-journalism network created in 2004. The network includes more than 10,000 citizen correspondents who submit original content, which is then vetted by professional editors.
Eight years since its launch, Mi Voz told the University of Southern California (USC) Journalism Review that it now pulls in US$2 million in annual profits — without relying upon any foundation or government support.
In doing so, it is not only bucking trends in an ailing industry, it is also defying the retreat of local news. Mi Voz boasts 18 publications based in 14 different regions in Chile, stretching from El Morro Cotudo in the far North to El Magallanews in the deep South.
Paula Rojo, one of the founding members of Mi Voz, told the USC that before the network was created, regional news in Chile was confined to crime and scandal. Alongside creating a successful business, Rojo and her colleagues wanted to tell original and compelling stories from outside the capital.
“We want to create a space where citizens, leaders and officials can converse and discuss the collective future of the city,” Rojo said.
Today, the network employs a staff of more than 50 people across the country. Local editors not only vet and edit stories, they organize and train residents. Eight people are hired solely on developing the business side.
The network continues to grow in Chile and, in good news for the future of journalism, Mi Voz is looking at expanding throughout the continent.