As LP readers will know, many bloggers have been concerned for a long time about the quality of public debate around contentious issues. Many of these issues are ‘wicked problems’ – scientifically and socially complex, presenting real challenges to policy makers, and often not amenable to straightforward calculations of risk.
One such issue is Coal Seam Gas.
There are conflicting interests around land use, there is uncertainty about the factual basis of the debate, there are apprehensions that governments will roll over in the face of a $40 billion industry. And the debate can often become very clouded by claim, counter-claim, framing and spin.
For some time, we have been working on a model of analytical and interactive journalism which will hold such a debate accountable to fact.
That model is about to become a reality – with a major media project being launched to coincide with the Queensland election campaign, in which Coal Seam Gas and its impacts is a very live issue.
Our mission is to facilitate a better informed and more interactive public debate around key issues in Australia, holding the PR, political and media spin to account, disseminating fact and research on which citizens can make informed value judgments, and involving as broad a field of folks as possible in the conversation.
In collaboration with Crikey, we are launching a website, Coal Seam Gas: Behind the Seams, on Monday.
When the project site (to be hosted on the Crikey domain) goes live, articles by experts, key stakeholders, citizen journalists and we hope you, our readers, will be appearing. This content, which will be released progressively, will be enhanced by a daily blog digesting the news about CSG and testing it for truth and reliability.
We also intend to do some field reporting, and to host some live Q&As with experts and debates between candidates and stakeholders.
In order to give folks an idea of the sort of pieces we will run, we are previewing some of our content on the FAQ Review website. Robert Merkel’s first contribution, What is Coal Seam Gas and why is it controversial? and Roger Jones‘ Pink surfboards: Coal Seam Gas and Risk are two of the initial articles seeking to demystify the issue.
We have been working on this project for five weeks, and we are very excited about the enthusiasm with which it has been greeted, and the quality of the writing and analysis we have sourced from some of Australia’s leading expert researchers.
However, such a project does not come without a cost.
We raised $6000 in seed funding to support the conceptualisation of the model last year, and a further $7000 via a Facebook and email campaign to finance its first stages this year. We are now seeking to raise an additional $10000, and we’re delighted that $2310 has already been contributed.
Crikey is providing significant in kind support to this project, but we need cash to make it happen! Your donations will be directed toward the cost of field reporting, necessary equipment, website and communication tools and hosting, and most importantly, the research, editing and writing time that is needed to fully realise the project’s aims.
By donating, you make a real difference to the quality of public debate in Australia, and to getting the information out that policy makers and citizens need. For far too long, many of us have been passive in the face of political, media and corporate spin, and we now have the chance to get on the front front foot around an issue that could hardly be more important to our collective futures.
We have not accepted, and will not accept, any donations from groups, parties or entities with a stake in the CSG debate. We want to prove it’s possible to raise funds for a public interest media project, and we’re delighted with our progress so far.
If 100 people give $100, or 200 people give $50, then we’ve reached our target! And you will have made a significant contribution for a small outlay towards improving the quality of public debate in Australia on a key issue and more generally.
Our fundraising campaign page is here.
Donations can be made either by credit or debit card or via PayPal. If donations are made by PayPal, we can access the funding immediately, which will go a long way to supporting the field trip we have planned to Jondaryan on Monday, where a major rally is being held, and to the Dalby and Chinchilla districts later next week.
We have lined up a large range of interviewees ranging from farmers through activists to corporate spokespeople and local Council and community figures.
We would love you to be involved. If you are interested in contributing, please contact us via email.
Please also follow us on Twitter and facebook, and share the news about CSG: Behind the Seams with your friends and contacts. You can sign up for an email newsletter by using the form on the right hand sidebar of the FAQ Research front page.
We believe this initiative is a first for an Australian election campaign, and we hope that it will become a model for interactive, deliberative and stimulating debate on key issues, where the spin and the announceables that clutter the airwaves can be held accountable to facts and to reasoned argument. So we very much hope that LP readers will support Coal Seam Gas: Behind the Seams.