The UpTake is honored to announce it has been selected by a prestigious new foundation promoting press freedom as one of the first four independent organizations to receive help crowd-funding journalism that brings transparency to government and demands accountability of those in power.
The new Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founded by Daniel Ellsberg, the whistle-blower who gave the “Pentagon Papers” to the New York Times in 1971, exposing years of official lies and cover-ups that led to the Vietnam War, is headed by a Who’s Who of press freedom pioneers, including civil liberties journalist Glenn Greenwald, actor John Cusack, and Internet information leaders ranging from John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation to documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and Xeni Jardin, co-founder and editor of Boing Boing.
The UpTake joins WikiLeaks, MuckRock News and the National Security Archive as one of the first four organizations to be helped in raising funds by the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
“We are interested in supporting organizations that bring more transparency to government, hold power to account and stand for the public’s right to know,” says Josh Stearns, a member of the board of directors of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “The UpTake has shown, again and again, that they are willing to do the long, hard, grueling and often tedious work required to do those things. What’s more, they have shown they also are willing to train others to do them.”
“We are very proud to be acknowledged for our work,” said Jason Barnett, Executive Director of The UpTake and one of its founders. “We’ve been doing on-the-ground transparency coverage since Day One, and we have the potential to do more, to expand to other regions and focus on the work of transparency and civic engagement you need for citizens to understand what is happening. Exposing the truth and revealing the information being held by the powerful are the core values of journalism.”
“So much of what impacts us happens locally and it’s where information is most likely to be hidden or overlooked,” said another of The UpTake’s founders, Executive Producer Michael McIntee. “It’s an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as WikiLeaks and these other journalism organizations. If you want truly independent journalism, it has to be truly independently funded—free from the influence of corporations and governments that can use their power to bend or hide the truth. This looks to be a very promising way to do that and I’m proud to see us included in the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s launch.”
As McIntee noted, independent journalists who are willing — if necessary — to bite the hands that feed them can have a hard time funding their work. The Freedom of the Press Foundation hopes to change that by shining the spotlight on groups like The UpTake and asking members of the public to support their work so that they don’t have to spend so much time and energy seeking small grants and donations. “People have to get used to journalism being part of their philanthropy plans,” says Barnett.
That’s what the Freedom of the Press Foundation hopes to do — to increase public support for journalism with integrity.
“We want to create a new base of support for non-profit journalism organizations so they don’t have to always be trying to get a million small grants,” said the foundation’s Josh Stearns. “We hope to help them become more resilient, and more stable by becoming a sort of one-stop shopping center for average citizens who want to come forward and support innovative journalists who are willing to take risks.”
The UpTake fits that description well.
Founded in 2007, The UpTake gained national attention for its hard-nosed street coverage of the protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, its inside-the-walls coverage of the long recount in the U.S. Senate election contest between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken, its principled demand for press working space and credentials in the Minnesota State Capitol in 2009 and 2010, and its continuing coverage of Occupy Minnesota, racial justice issues and labor protests. In the future, The UpTake hopes to expand its coverage model into other regions and currently is working to develop a community reporter training program aimed at training and empowering reporters in communities of color, minority and neglect often overlooked by mainstream media.
Glenn Greenwald, the civil liberties columnist and board member for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, hailed The UpTake in his column in The Guardian today this way:
“The UpTake (is) a Minnesota-based group that uses truly innovative means to break ‘down walls of power to expose the raw truth by pushing for transparency and access to information.’ They use citizen journalism, crowd-sourcing and cutting-edge technology to film and document the bad acts of government agents. I worked next to them when I covered the incredibly excessive federal and local police actions and brutality against protesters at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, and was truly impressed with them then, as I watched all sorts of young activists and older ones use hand-held video cameras and phones to comprehensively cover all sorts of police abuses being ignored by most large journalistic outlets, which were comfortably ensconced inside the convention hall. They’ve expanded their operations substantially since then, have a long list of achievements to tout, and – most excitingly to me – can serve as a template for how to engage in real journalism across the country using citizens and the power of technology.”
We are humbled, and honored, to be selected for funding by Freedom of the Press Foundation.
“The ways in which people consume news now have changed,” said The UpTake’s Barnett. “They pick and choose from a buffet of sources, so it is hard to develop a relationship with a consistent audience and develop a reliable fund-raising stream. Getting recognition from the Freedom of the Press Foundation will be incredibly important to our plans for the future, to grow and to expand and continue to fight for transparency and accountability.”