Newslaundry is 10 years old today; a decade of ad-free, subscription-driven journalism and media critique. With a month full of subscriber chats, panels and videos celebrating #NLat10, February is also a good time for us to acknowledge those who made it happen.
Newslaundry is the outcome of the generosity, indulgence and belief of many people. It is not just our revenue model that is collaborative in structure (more on this later) but the creation of NL too. From Milan Moudgill who designed the first NL look and birthed the idea of a clothespin as our logo, to the subscribers who stepped in with tech muscle to keep the site stable and active when we didn’t have a full time tech resource – they all built this.
My co-founders Roopak and Prashant who allowed me to pursue something that seemed more of a drain on our other enterprise rather than help us grow in any way; for providing the safety net while the rest of us could try all sorts of clumsy trapeze acts. It’s always easy to be brave when you have someone to catch you if you fall.
Milan, a designer of amazing brilliance, doesn’t design for a living but helped us share the bounty of his creativity with the NL clothespin.
The untiring Shiv Bhaskar who put up with so much uncle-type ignorance and ill-temper when he was creating the website and first payment gateway for us. For launching the website.
Vijay Nair and Sanjoy Roy and their teams at OML and Teamwork Arts who partnered with us and helped create forums and events without quibbling and nitpicking on any commercials or finances. For co-creating Speak Out and The Media Rumble with no strings attached.
Bena Sareen, designer extraordinaire who updated our logo, gave us our design sensibility on many occasions – all free. For making us look good.
The team Omidyar Network for believing in the idea of Newslaundry. Especially C V Madhukar for his guidance. For backing this dream.
A special shoutout to all the colleagues who were brave, steadfast and supportive in the face of months of delayed salaries during the difficult phase mentioned above. These are the teams﹘furiously paddling, silently invisible﹘that allow brands to gracefully glide through choppy waters. For believing.
The amazing cab driver who was detained when our reporters were working on a story in Haryana. The report was investigating a labour vs management feud in a powerful corporation. He faced the consequences without regret as he said what we are doing is valuable and must be reported. For taking us home.
Nikhil and Rahul from Happily Unmarried who got us started on the merchandise track and also helped design some of our first roll outs without charging us. They educated us on merch.
When we did not have full time tech resources, subscribers stepped in to help and keep the website stable﹘Mustufa Kalyanwalla, Aditya Relangi, Aakash Aggarwal and Ramesh Kedlaya. You guys rock.
Gurpreet at Peepal Tree who kept our merch in his store to give us more visibility. For helping us branch out.
The lawyers who have had our back from the start. Saket Shukla and Sawant Singh of Phoenix Legal and their amazing teams that give us the confidence and succour that one needs while negotiating the news landscape. We stand strong and solid without the stress of consequences because of them.
Newslaundry and I personally have much affection and gratitude for Madhu Trehan. An extraordinary boss, mentor, friend and then co-founder; not only did she make Newslaundry happen, but she has been a pioneer in transforming journalism across decades. From launching the India Today magazine in the 70s, to Newstrack in the 80s and then Newslaundry in 2012. For always being restless, brave and generous.
Most of all the subscribers who pay to keep news free. Who proved the “Indians-won’t-pay-for-news” line we heard all the time wrong. For making the impossible possible. You all are magicians.
These and so many others have built, nurtured and helped Newslaundry survive; many not named here who don’t want to or can not be mentioned. The it-takes-a-village cliché is true for us, and we will forever be grateful to all these people.
What next? Here is an idea we’re toying with. From making journalism ad-free to making it a grid of resources, we are now trying to change how a news organisation attends to its infrastructural and logistical needs.
Thousands of people have offices and homes that are more than what they need all the time; so much of unlocking value waits to happen, and we don’t need a fancy consulting company to tell us this. What is often referred to as excess capacity in corporations, exists with individuals and their small enterprises, offices and homes. When we get legal notices from large corporations, there is always a paragraph dedicated to how big that company is and how many offices it has all over the country. I’ve always wondered why that is relevant in the notice. But let’s leave that aside for now and imagine you have resources that you can offer for anything from 2 hours to 48 hours to a team on the move. Some of you have helped us in the past by providing a vehicle or an office space. These could be significant for ground reports as travel and boarding costs often turn out as a disincentive for many news organisations.
So the next step would be the Friends of NL database (which we may call the NL Hive or NL Grid). Just as Newslaundry has thousands (and hopefully hundreds of thousands in the future) of subscribers, imagine, if a significant number of them join the NL Grid or Hive, any team anywhere in the country would not be more than a two-hour drive away from any node on that network. Be it broadband for HD video, a room for boarding, a meal for the crew, a vehicle for the reporter, a set, studio or location for recordings, all this could radically change how we have come to understand news organisation structures and assets. A truly collaborative mission.
Also, it would be great if some mega corporation sent us a legal notice telling us they have 44 offices around the country and we could say – “that’s all? We have a grid with 2,000 nodes, but don’t worry, you’ll get there.” The architecture of news must change. For it to be a public service, it has to have the widest network of people who contribute to it. That is the next milestone. To give you the confidence to be part of the Newslaundry Grid. Seems unlikely? So did an ad-free website 10 years ago.
Forever grateful to all those who got us to #NLat10.
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