A groundbreaking new civic journalism network has been launched in the UK today, the first of its kind in Europe. Ferret Underground, an initiative from award-winning not-for-profit investigative journalism cooperative The Ferret, uses US software GroundSource to talk to its supporters and audiences via text message.
Rather than broadcasting stories one way, this will allow journalists to develop stories hand-in-hand with readers, and for members of the public to have much more influence on what kind of issues are investigated on their behalf.
Members of the free Underground network will also be able to sign up to a dedicated Facebook community to discuss stories and topics that they are interested in, and Ferret journalists and staff will also share details of events and opportunities with members.
They will also receive a curated weekly email newsletter featuring the best stories of the week, regular reader polls, and insights from Ferret journalists about what they have been working on. A mobile text newsletter is also in the works.
The Ferret is based in Scotland and was founded by a group of veteran journalists with backgrounds from environmental reporting to human rights and international reportage.
It has produced high-impact public interest reporting on themes from “dark money” in election funding through to disability welfare cuts and fracking.
It has also been instrumental in holding the Scottish Government accountable for failing to adhere to Freedom of Information laws.
Head of engagement and innovation Rachel Hamada said: “Anyone can join the Ferret Underground network by texting the word UNDERGROUND to 07480 487201. We’re really excited about working more interactively with people across Scotland, and further afield.
“We’re hoping that through this network, via digital, events, skillshares and more, we can build an inclusive community of journalists, activists and citizens in Scotland who are keen critical thinkers, know how to hold power to account in their areas, and above all who are up for building a more fair and transparent society.
“We’re especially keen to work with young people, who have been repeatedly disregarded, and told that they’re not political or considered as media consumers. Our experience is that they care a lot about our collective future, but need better access to media platforms and a new kind of media to represent their experiences.”