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Emerging Journalism Models & Creative Commons

Old models of news delivery are changing, being complemented, and even supplanted by entirely new models. Many of these new models leverage Creative Commons licenses, a simple, standardized way for authors to grant copyright permissions to their work in the digital age. Because the rights to copy, distribute, or adapt content are pre-cleared, news is more rapidly and widely disseminated, allowing innovative business models to emerge that rely on free and legal sharing and reuse.

Two examples of non-profit journalism ventures funded by foundations and/or other sponsors are Propublica and the Huffington Post Investigative Fund.


Led by Paul Steiger, the former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, Propublica is an independent 32-person newsroom producing investigative journalism. Propublica encourages others to "steal"[1] its stories; it encourages other sites to reproduce their stories as long as they are credited and linked to under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works license (CC BY-NC-ND). Propublica also gives certain stories first to major news outlets, such as the New York Times and CNN, in order to maximize their impact. After a window of exclusivity, which can be anywhere from seconds to hours after the original publication depending on the agreement, these stories are also published on the Propublica site under CC BY-NC-ND.

Huffington Post Investigative Fund

The Huffington Post Investigative Fund is a professional newsroom that produces watchdog journalism and is staffed by reporters and editors from a variety of news organizations, such as the Washington Post, Business Week, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and more. It's a destination site with all news published under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works license (CC BY-ND).

An example of an advertising-supported citizen journalism platform that shares revenue with reporters is Groundreport.


Groundreport covers global news. It has over 5,000 contributors, citizen journalists from all around the world with various levels of experience, who submit articles, photos, and videos of news events, which are vetted by a staff of editors. Groundreport publishes stories on its site and through syndication partners such as Google News, the Huffington Post, and YouTube; and shares 50% of its advertising revenue with its contributors, based on unique traffic to posts. Reporters retain rights to their work and can choose which Creative Commons license to publish under.

An example of community-funded reporting is covers local news, and is currently focused on the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. Any member of the public can commission and fund journalists to report a story. Contributions are tax deductible and about 10% usually goes to, while the remaining 90% goes to the reporter. If a news organization buys exclusive rights to the story, donations are reimbursed and the news organization gains first publishing rights; it is up to the organization whether they wish to publish the story under default copyright or a Creative Commons license. Otherwise, all content is made available through a Creative Commons Attribution Only license (CC BY), enabling any news organization to republish the story.

For instance, a story, "Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of Trash" by Lindsey Hoshaw, was featured in the Science section of the New York Times on November 9, 2009. Freelancer, Lindsey Hoshaw used to raise $6,000 from 116 donors to pay for reporting about pollution patches in the Pacific Ocean. The New York Times bought the story and Hoshaw's photos. and Hoshaw kept the fees and funders were paid back. In this case, the story is available on the New York Times website under default copyright.

There are also new twists on older models. These include Al Jazeera, GOOD Magazine, and Creative Commons' Student Journalism 2.0.

Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera is the first major news source to use Creative Commons. Al Jazeera built a Creative Commons video repository consisting of broadcast-quality video of the war in Gaza and made it available to anyone for use under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY). Because Al Jazeera had access to the region amidst scarcity of news footage available, the CC BY license enabled other news organizations report on the footage while crediting Al Jazeera—increasing both coverage of the war and Al Jazeera as the original news source. The International Herald Tribune states, “In a conflict where the Western news media have been largely prevented from reporting from Gaza because of restrictions imposed by the Israeli military, Al Jazeera has had a distinct advantage. It was already there.”

GOOD Magazine

GOOD Magazine is a print and web magazine focused on social issues and social entrepreneurship. Its basic business model is built on advertising. They also accept subscriptions with all subscription fees going to partner charities, incentivizing consumers to subscribe and partner charities to reach out to their communities—which ultimately produces more readers. After a six-month exclusivity window, all content is published on their site under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license (CC BY-NC).

Others uses of CC in journalism

Additional resources