Can This Woman Save Journalism?

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If reporting can be saved by a slogan, it might just be this: “Radiohead journalism.”

That’s the phrase on the website of Paige Williams, an award-winning journalist who—like the In Rainbows rock band—is asking the public to pay directly, and as they please, for her work.

Beside her engaging 6,000 word piece on author Dolly Freed, Williams has inserted this:

Click on the button, and pony up via PayPal.

It’s straightforward, yet risky and original—which in an era of journalistic desperation (Government intervention is the answer to journalism’s problems! No, crowdfunding! No, the non-profit model!) makes it very buzz-worthy. “Williams’ strategy has a distinctly pudding-proofy sensibility to it,” said The Columbia Journalism Review. Asked Reason‘s Tim Cavanaugh, “Can this experiment work?” (The plan may portend the future in another way too: Williams says she got the word out by relying entirely on her 400 Facebook friends and 120 Twitter followers.)

But while everyone seems to think the plan has groundbreaking potential, Williams herself is more cautious. She acknowledges she might not recoup her costs, let alone pocket a small paycheck. So far, 35 people have contributed $420 toward her $2000 goal. She doesn’t even know if she’s going to do it again.

In fact, the motivation for her effort wasn’t prognosticating so much as old-school journalistic doggedness. After her story pitch was rejected by numerous publications, Williams says, “I just wanted the story to live in the world.” All she did was get creative—the best we can hope for in the fight to save quality journalism.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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