The New York Times had a wish list. It wanted coverage of the emerging human subcultures that young journalists can be so adept at spotting, and it wanted to report them in a way that was visually arresting and likely to thrive on social media as well as its own platforms.
Its solution was a remarkable project called Surfacing, which has generated features on subjects as diverse as a female “Roller Derby” team made up of members from indigenous peoples from around the world.
But perhaps stranger than all of that is the fact that this editorial project from the world’s most famous newspaper title is underwritten by a snack brand, Véa, a trendy cracker made without artificial ingredients.
It’s an experiment in the funding of quality journalism that could have major implications for the future of news, as publishers look to partnerships with brands to extend the operations of their newsrooms without ceding editorial control. Véa, and its manufacturer Mondelez, benefit merely from association with a great news brand.
Ideas for these special projects must always come from the newsroom and not “downstream” from a brief from a prospective client according to the NYT. The key decision maker is Monica Drake, Assistant Managing Editor. “Monica’s role is to figure out where the journalistic need is and then we will go to market to find the right partners. It needs to come from the newsroom versus saying this is a commercial opportunity, so let’s invest.”