T-Squared: Beacon Beckons

At the Trib, we're all about experimenting, from our business model to the tools we use to tell stories. This month, we’re toying with a new way to let readers support reporting they care about — using the crowdfunding-for-journalism site Beacon Reader.

graphic by Todd Wiseman

Here at The Texas Tribune, we’re all about experimenting — from our business model to the tools and technology we use to tell stories. This month, we’re toying with letting readers support reporting they care about by way of the crowdfunding-for-journalism site Beacon Reader.

Like Kickstarter, Beacon allows news organizations to connect with readers so drawn to their work that they’ll throw in $5, $50 or even $150 to enable it. It’s not a new concept: The Center for Investigative Reporting in California has engaged the Beacon platform to raise money for a project on police and government surveillance of ordinary Americans; the Huffington Post is using it to keep a reporter on the ground in Ferguson, Mo., for the next year.

The Tribune is partnering with Beacon to raise $5,000 for a sweeping multimedia project on life inside the Texas shale boom, from man camps and millionaires to family farms and food banks. Uncovering these stories — the profound economic and environmental impacts, the upheaval in small towns — isn’t cheap. We’ve got five reporters, two video producers and several photographers out in the field in West and South Texas, plus three news apps developers building data tools back home. But it’s crucial to telling the story of Texas, which is what we seek to do well every day.     

The Trib may be new to Beacon but not to crowdfunding; thanks to our successful Kickstarter campaign, we were able to raise the funds to purchase the livestreaming equipment we’ve been using ever since — everywhere from the gubernatorial campaign trail to our TribLive events around the state.

As with the rest of our financing, we’ll be completely transparent about who’s giving via Beacon. Anyone who gives — individual contributions max out at $250 — will be listed on the Beacon site in real-time and on the project site, and we're not accepting anonymous donations. Like most crowdfunding services, Beacon takes a cut (a small percentage of the proceeds are distributed evenly among the independent journalists who publish on its site). 

We’ve got until the end of the month to reach our fundraising goal for this important project. If you’re inspired by the topic or our previous work, check out our Beacon page and give it a boost!