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Announcing The Spinoff Longform Fund

Want us to do more investigative journalism? Now you can help make that happen, writes Duncan Greive.

The Spinoff was founded as an experiment in magazine journalism. An attempt to figure out if there was a way to fund it online without the torrent of empty calorie content which has been the hallmark of many news sites in the ‘00s. The fact we’re still here and growing across every important metric feels like some kind of validation.

I love what we produce: interviews, criticism, opinion, feature writing, podcasts and other ephemera. I want to do more of all that, and soon we’ll be announcing a couple more sections, each of which we’ve been working on for a year or more. They’ll expand our scope and involve recruiting more staff, all of which are excellent things.

But there are other forms of journalism we struggle to undertake with any regularity. Particularly longform investigative work. It’s labour-intensive. It requires journalists to be able to focus on one story for long periods of time. It’s also critically important, and the number of people who can devote themselves to it full-time are vanishingly rare. It can free innocent prisoners, unseat cabinet ministers, get fraudsters prosecuted. And when we survey our readers, it’s the thing they most commonly ask for.

With a few laudable exceptions, it doesn’t happen much in New Zealand. Not because it doesn’t matter, but because it’s so hard to finance. That sucks, but it’s not irresolvable. We’ve asked for help once before, to do the War for Auckland, one of our most successful series. Now we’re giving you the opportunity to help again. Whether you’re an individual or a business, if you believe that investigative journalism matters and you trust us to practise it well, then you can donate to our new funding campaign.

If you’d like to contribute, simply click the “become a supporter” button located at both the top and bottom of this page. All donations are being processed by a New Zealand crowdfunding platform called PressPatron, which launched in February with the express aim of helping audiences support the news organisations they love.

Founder Alex Clark explains the thinking behind the service: “PressPatron is focused on rewarding and sustaining the creation of high quality journalism. If we all come together and support at least one of our favourite journalism websites, we can collectively empower news and media organisations to fund in-depth reporting about important topics we care about.”

They take just five percent of donations to cover overheads, meaning that almost every dollar you donate will come to us. From there, we pledge to turn all of those donations into longform journalism. We will spend every cent we receive on writers, editors, photographers, videographers, travel, OIA-filing fees and whatever else it takes to get these stories out.

The Spinoff staff doing work, dreaming of longform investigative journalism (image: Tina Tiller)

The money will become part of The Spinoff Longform Fund. It’s a new initiative open to any journalist who wishes to apply – including our own people*. We’re asking New Zealand’s extraordinary writing, video and audio journalism communities to pitch stories to longform@thespinoff.co.nz – and if you have tips or leads please send them (in the strictest confidence) to the same address. The standard rate for successful applicants will be $1 per word plus expenses for text-based stories. Audio and video projects will be similarly well-compensated, because we don’t think longform journalism should be a labour of love alone.

And once they’re out, they’re accessible to all, beautifully presented and ad free. We never have and never will erect a paywall, because we believe the journalism we do works best when it reaches the widest possible audience.

The plan is for The Spinoff Longform to deliver a project per quarter, but we’ll increase the frequency should your support allow it.

This is a big move for us, one which signals our intent to facilitate the best and most important journalism for New Zealand. If you enjoy The Spinoff, and want to see us do more, please consider supporting this fund by either clicking buttons top and bottom of this piece, or (for app users) clicking here. And if you’re a journalist with a big, unwieldy and important project, please get in touch. The first deadline for applications is August 31.

Thanks,

Duncan Greive

Editor, The Spinoff

* If a Spinoff journalist is chosen then we will spend the Longform Fund hiring external journalists to cover their roles while they are seconded to the story. This is to make sure our own staff have as much of an opportunity to develop and pursue important stories as New Zealand’s freelance community.

The Spinoff Longform Fund is dedicated to facilitating investigative journalism. Our focus is on supporting in-depth reporting on important New Zealand stories. Your donation will help us sustain this most resource-intensive form of journalism, ensuring that the most complex and important stories still get told.