PETALING JAYA: The Star's R.AGE team has been selected for a Google News Initiative (GNI) grant after having been selected as one of the winners of the GNI Innovation Challenge.
R.AGE is among 23 other project winners from 14 countries that will get a slice of US$3.2mil (RM13mil) in grant funding, which the young journalists will use to build a new membership platform.
For the GNI Innovation Challenge, R.AGE proposed a digital membership and micropayment platform that would allow supporters to contribute actively to its investigative and impact journalism work.
"This really is an incredible opportunity for us to show that investigative, social justice-driven journalism can be financially sustainable, and it's something we will not take for granted," said R.AGE deputy executive editor and producer Ian Yee.
Since it was revamped as a multimedia investigative team in late 2015, R.AGE has won over 30 major local and international awards for its groundbreaking work not only in journalism, but in digital marketing and social activism as well.
The team's young journalists, mostly in their 20s, have investigated and created impact on a wide variety of social justice issues, including child sexual crimes, human trafficking, indigenous rights, and refugee rights.
WATCH: R.AGE's award-winning human trafficking investigation
Unfortunately, while these investigations are obviously important, they are very difficult to monetise, especially in an age where people are used to getting news for free, said Yee.
"For the past few years, we've worked so incredibly hard to keep these investigations going.
"The joke is that we're always 'moonlighting' on commercial productions to fund our real work, the investigations.
"So this money we're getting from Google is really a chance for us to get to a place where we don't have to be filming a web commercial one day, and busting a human trafficker the next.
"We want to be able to focus on the work which can have the most positive impact on society," he added.
The GNI Innovation Challenge winners' announcement was made earlier this week on The Keyword, a Google blog containing the latest stories and updates from the California-based tech giant.
The announcement said that US$3.2mil (RM13mil) in funding will be given to the 23 winners, which were selected from 215 submissions.
"I hope people don't start thinking we're swimming in cash, though!" said Yee with a laugh.
"The only way good journalism can thrive is if the people support it and pay for it.
"Every last dollar we get from Google will go into developing a platform that will encourage and enable the public to do just that; so if Malaysians don't rally around it, then we're pretty much back at square one," he added.
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