Crowdfunding – Could it be a “lifeboat” for Investigative Journalism in Vietnam?

This week, we discuss how technology changes news business models in terms of funding. This inspires me to think of crowdfunding as a solution to funding investigative journalism in Vietnam.


I’ve been a journalist for 4 years in Vietnam. And do you know what makes me mad? It is when we find out the government is doing something wrong. (And this happens all the time).  We meet our boss and say our newspaper needs to investigate those issues. Their mind goes blank and they shout “No”.

In Vietnam, journalists have to face with heavy-handed censorship. And because every press agencies are state owned, journalism cannot say anything against the government. Investigative journalists in my country are struggling to find both funding and distribution channels. Could we break this impasse?


David Appel, a freelance reporter, succeeded in raising fund for his investigative weblog. His project, then, reveals that sugar companies tried to lobby the Congress to stop funding WHO because WHO”s activities pose a threat to these companies” interest.

In 2007, one of the biggest news stories in the US — the Bush administration’s firing of a group of U.S. attorneys — was covered by the reporters of the blog Talking Points Memo.

Crowdfunding has been the answer for investigative journalism around the world. In his article,  Paul Bradshaw has pointed out three models for online funding investigative works, including foundation support, viewer donation, and licensing/advertising. Usually, the reality is a combination of all three.

However, attracting readers and financial support is never an easy task. Since 2000, various non-for-profit media groups has sprouted across the world. Crowdfunding nowadays is like a fierce of starving carnivores. Only whom with the best strategy and tactics could be the survivors.

Since 2011, Knight Foundation has annually released the report “Getting Local: How Nonprofit News Ventures Seek Sustainability” analyzing many nonprofit investigative news sites. The report finds that the most successful models are those having a long-term strategic plan, annual budgetary goals and a corresponding development plan with specific metrics.

However, no successful stories can be a normative model. With consideration to Vietnam’s socio-political nature, there are two major concerns. First, the notion of philanthropic support for nonprofits is still strange in Vietnam. Second, freedom of speech is still a controversial issue.  These are big obstacles needed to overcome first!


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