Independent media organizations could serve as an important source of information for the public, especially when some events are purposely covered up by the government or considered unimportant by conventional news outlets.
Aiming to “publicize stories that have disappeared, restore the stories that have been edited and attract public attention to issues that do not have public attention,” Hong Kong-based 1510 online magazine editor and co-organizer of the Co-China forum Beryl Liu (劉垚) and a few friends have founded the electronic magazine to penetrate censorship of the Chinese government.
“The idea to found an electronic magazine came up when a few friends and I decided to organize a forum to discuss the arrest of Chinese rights activist Xu Zhiyong [許志永] in 2009,” Liu told a conference organized by the Association of Taiwan Journalists in Taipei yesterday.
“Xu’s arrest triggered much concern and heated discussions by netizens on Twitter. However, the incident was not reported by any media in China,” she said. “We broadcast the discussion live on Twitter and it was surprisingly popular among netizens.”
“The broadcast gave us the idea that it’s actually not that hard to create a media outlet and report things that the government doesn’t want you to report, or in which conventional media outlets are not interested,” she added.
The idea later gave birth to the online magazine “1510” — which is a Chinese homonym meaning “complete and honest.”
However, online magazines face obstacles because of Chinese government Internet censorship.
Liu said that often the magazine receives telephone calls from government agencies asking it to take down some reports, saying that otherwise, its Web site or Twitter account may be blocked.
“When this happens, we have to cooperate at first and think of another way to spread the message — such as changing the title or taking out sensitive words, but of course we will make sure our readers still know what we are trying to get across,” Liu said.
One of the biggest challenges for independent media outlet is the funding, and this is why the online news source News&Market made itself not only a news platform, but also a platform for selling reliable agricultural products.
“We have a news department and a marketing department. The marketing department sells products to support operation of the news department,” News&Market co-founder Feng Hsiao-fei (馮小非) said. “But do not get us wrong — we do not sell news.”
Feng said that the objective of the marketing department is to help small farmers and allow consumers to buy reliable, organic and non-genetically modified produce.
News&Market also invites the public to make small donations.
“So far, we have 700 individual sponsors, who donate NT$300 a year,” Feng said. “We are fortunate that, so far, we are still self-sustainable, and are able to make reports uninfluenced by the government or by news corporations.”