Will new business models for journalism challenge the journalists’ autonomy?

I’ve been thinking about new business models for the news media, and in my opinion we’re witnessing a trend where new entrants are proposing business models where the readers pay for individual stories instead of a monthly subscription. There are probably more solutions out there, but it seems like the two most popular models are to either start a Kickstarteresque campaign to fund individual stories (such as Finnish startup Rapport), or to solicit micropayments for every story a user reads (Dutch company Blendle).

My intention is not to piss on these ideas, but I find it interesting that no one seems to think about what this does to journalism (full disclosure: I haven’t actively looked for this type of critique, so I might just have missed the critical debate).

I will try to be specific:

Premise 1: The (modern) ideal of news reporting is that journalists are allowed to pursue stories freely without interference by the business department. By separating the creative and commercial interests from each other journalists are granted the necessary autonomy to scrutinize the powerful.

Premise 2: cultural creators (such as journalists) are often underpaid and on temporary contracts, which makes them highly dependent on the owners. Although they provide the creative content that media organizations profit from, they get a very small slice of the pie.

So while story-funding grants journalists some independence from the owners, they become subjected to market pressures.  Won’t this heavily affect the journalist’s autonomy?

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