Hickey shelves public news venture – not enough money in it

Bernard Hickey

Business commentator Bernard Hickey has abandoned plans to set up his own online public news service - for now.

Three months after touting the journalism.org venture, which was expected to launch this month, Mr Hickey says it is demanding more time than he can commit to get it off the ground.

“One of the painful lessons I have learned is that journalism.org will be a time-consuming venture and one that will require more time than I will be able to devote to it,” he says in an update on the website.

“I have come to the conclusion that the need to support my family through freelance journalism and commentary will not leave sufficient time for me to continue to take the lead role in journalism.org during its formative stage.”

Finding financial backers was also prooving more difficult than he thought.

“We will have to fight for funding in an economic environment where philanthropy is less evident than in more prosperous times and where we need to be wary of the difference between verbal commitments to donate and actually putting a hand in one’s pocket,” the update says.

Mr Hickey was asking people to buy memberships to the website from $100.

He had previously acknowledged it was risky to rely on one large donor – if they lost interest or wanted to make the site a vehicle for their own views.

Today, Mr Hickey told NBR ONLINE a small team of people were working on developing a trust deed, operational structure and funding model for journalism.org.

He did not want to reveal who they were just yet, and said they wanted to get their “ducks in a row” before suggesting a timeframe for the launch.

“We’re still working hard and we’re confident over time there will be public demand for this sort of thing."

Announcing plans for journalism.org in August, Mr Hickey told Radio New Zealand’s Media Watch programme there were stories “dripping off trees” for the proposed non-profit, public interest news website.

“Journalism.org.nz will be a place where the public supports and helps build journalism in the public interest,” he wrote on the website’s Facebook page.

He was planning to employ as many journalists as he could to report on areas not covered by traditional media. And an editorial board, which could involve members of the public, would work with the public to do “citizen” or “crowd-sourced journalism”.

“That means investigative probing, enterprising and explanatory journalism, rather than celebrity-driven churnalism and PR.”

For now, Mr Hickey says he needs to focus on his own freelance work to earn money to “pay the bills”.

He remains a freelance contributor to financial news website interest.co.nz, is a regular financial commentator on Radio Live and writes a weekly newspaper column.

Mr Hickey’s change in focus coincides with his plans to relocate to Wellington in the New Year, where his oldest daughter will start university.

He says he does not have a new job there.

His family home in the Auckland suburb of Epsom just sold for more than $1 million and he is now looking to buy a house in Wellington.

gbond@nbr.co.nz

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6 Comments & Questions

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Plus he was beaten to the punch by Stuff.co.nz, which is effectively doing the same thing with publicly generated content, aren't they?

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Stuff is not much competition. It has zero organisation/indexing of the articles and poor=slow, inconsistent moderation.

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How come he's not going to rent in Wellington? Isn't he still predicting house prices to fall 30%?

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Ah, but you are not up to date, Alan. If you had read his last week's column he is converting to property investor. And he still gets space in the newspapers?

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So much for being an astute business commentator. He never saw this before he started.

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If I've told him once I've told him a hundred times, his crystal ball ain't no good. It needs to go to Madam Zola for repair.

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