In the mid-1990’s I briefly covered Internet technologies and games for Macworld.com. I had no previous experience as an editor but enough knowledge about the beat to do something with it.
On the first day my colleague said, “You already know some of the reporters, so just go and start assigning stories.”
I was suddenly thrown. “I am going to ‘assign‘ them?” I asked.
“Uh, yeah,” she responded. “Didn’t you know that?”
I don’t know what I thought the process was, but as an early twenties first-time editor I didn’t feel qualified to tell professional writers what to write about. Of course, there’s much more back-and-forth than that, but the word ‘assign‘ sets the tone of that relationship and the process.
Is that the right word?
The Internet has a tendency to expose the insides of most processes, and publishing is no exception. Often problems occur when the machines replace human processes with something of lower fidelity. The Internet makes us better, however, when people can use it to accomplish things together that are hard to do as well alone.
This is one of the key principles behind Contributoria. We wanted to flatten the traditional hierarchy of the publishing process and extend authority to people in a community.
The piece that has been missing out there is the democratization of funding. Without power over the output and the budget the community is only participating in the editorial process.
We want the community to be driving the process from beginning to end. We can then play host and facilitate an interesting conversation. We can even amplify voices sometimes, too.
This could go in a lot of directions from here, but today’s announcement is the realization of the initial concept for Contributoria. With the new membership program we are handing over more control to independent journalists and their supporters – everyone in the community here can ‘assign’ stories in the ‘designate’ sense of the word.
Maybe ‘commission’ is a better name for what’s happening here.
Please join Contributoria and support independent journalism. It’s your chance to start commissioning and/or to get commissioned from a community that cares very much about the future of journalism in the world.