As some Croakey readers may know, I’ve been involved in helping to establish the Public Interest Journalism Foundation, based at the Institute for Social Research at Swinburne University in Melbourne.

The PIJ Foundation, which is chaired by my Crikey and blogging colleague Margaret Simons, aims to promote and enable innovation in public interest journalism.

We are about to launch two of our first projects, and I hope Croakey readers may be interested in contributing to them.

More details follow below, together with some suggestions for how you might like to engage.

1. The New News Conference, to be held as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival, September 2 and 3.

This conference aims to bring together media innovators and those with a concern for public interest journalism, as well as to encourage community engagement in new media opportunities and to increase digital literacy.

According to the official blurb: “This conference will be about collaboration and creation, and about building new and creative relationships between newsmakers and audiences. This is an optimistic conference. It will go beyond tired old debates about bloggers versus journalists to embrace and bring together all those who are using new technologies to communicate and access news.”

The conference will include keynote discussions and panel sessions – both free and ticketed events – and will be open to professional journalists and the general public. It will also include an Expo space in which organisations and individuals using new media to advance journalism are welcome to exhibit their work. There will also be a series of workshops aimed at teaching digital skills to industry practitioners and the general public.

Everyone is welcome. The conference is open to professionals, students, citizen content makers and the general community. The Melbourne Writers Festival and PIJ would like to acknowledge the support of the Victorian Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development.

Are there any Croakey readers interested in contributing to the conference program? Or do you have some suggestions for who should be on the bill? If so, please contact me asap. We’re particularly keen to hear from those involved in Indigenous media innovation.

2. YouCommNews

This will be a website enabling members of the community and journalists to pitch stories they would like investigated. These may be print articles, photographic, broadcast or multimedia investigations.

If the pitch meets the PIJ Foundation’s criteria (around issues such as there being some public interest issue at stake), the Foundation will allocate the story to a journalist or team of journalists. The story pitch will be placed on the website and members of the public will be able to make pledges to help fund the story.

Publisher partners of the Foundation – which we expect will include a range of mainstream and specialist publishers – will be able to buy rights to publish completed stories. Or we will publish the story on open access on the website. (The website is based on the Spot Us project in the US).

We plan to formally launch this initiative at the New News Conference, and in the meantime want to gather some strong story pitches and to hear from potential publishing partners and journalists interested in registering with the site.

You or your organisation could participate by:

• putting together story pitches.  What are some important stories you would like to see investigated? (Of course, Croakey is keen to see a healthy representation of health-related story pitches…)

• registering as a publisher partner with the website. Do you publish a journal, magazine, website or some other publication that may want to run PIJ Foundation stories?

• registering as a journalist with the website

• encouraging your networks to help fund specific story pitches on the website.

I hope that Croakey readers will flood us with suggestions for health stories deserving investigation. They may be about hyperlocal issues or of national or international significance. We are particularly interested in the sorts of stories or issues that might struggle to gain an airing in the mainstream media.

I will keep you posted on further developments. And look forward to hearing from you (either at the website or by email, which you can find at my website.)

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