As the race to the presidential election heats up, the debate over immigration and border security remains a hot topic—and nowhere is the conversation hotter than at the Arizona border.
The Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication recently launched a crowdfunding campaign with Beacon, a journalism crowdfunding site, to raise $25,000 to expand coverage of immigration and border issues and increase storytelling through innovative technology. They hit their target in February, raising more than $50,400 with 130 backers.
Eric Newton, the school’s innovations chief and a consultant for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, said they chose Beacon because the platform offers to match each dollar donated for projects focused on immigration. Beacon said they would match up to $25,000 for this project.
Newton said the campaign is also an experiment into how successful crowdfunding can be for journalism. He said they plan to share insight into what stories crowdfunding works best with and if the strategy can work for large newspapers as well as in a classroom setting.
“It looks promising,” Newton said. “The amount of money given away (in crowdfunding campaigns) has gone up steadily for the last 10 years.”
The Cronkite School is uniquely equipped to test the effectiveness of crowdfunding. The school’s student produced news organization, Cronkite News, is the news division of Arizona PBS and has more than 1 million weekly viewers, said Newton.
Their newsroom is made up of teams of students broken up into beats, one being Borderlands, which covers immigration and border issues and will be directly impacted by the Beacon campaign. The stories covered by Borderlands change every semester, and Newton said they don’t have one focus for the money raised through Beacon.
“We hope to amplify the opinions and news coming from the border to the point where people debating these issues know what people living at the border think,” Newton said.
Numbers of funded journalism projects by year
April-December 2009 17
January-September 2015 173
Total funds raised for journalism projects by year
April-December 2009 $49K
January -September 2015 $1.7M
Source: Pew Research Center