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Financing the best journalism you’ve never read

Sarah Gardner Apr 2, 2013
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Did you know you’re missing out on some great reads? Journalism that never sees the light of day because, well, one person decides it’s just not interesting enough to publish, often an editor.

Columbia University journalism professor Michael Shapiro is raising money on Kickstarter for a new business model for publishing non-fiction. His startup is called the Big Roundtable.

He calls it a “laboratory.” And the lab’s goal is a little bit social science research and a little bit of alchemy. “The question before us, and that we’re hoping to make sense of, is how do people find, read, fall in love with and share stories?” he says.

Shapiro explains how it works. First, contributors submit a complete story. “We take the first 1,000 words and show it to five people… If one of those five people say they want to read more, we show it to another five to see what the response is.”

The idea isn’t to make editors obsolete, but rather have a committee-style approach, to see if more stories survive.

“The default answer is no,” Shapiro says. “We want to see if we can enhance the chances and get to yes.”

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