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Independent French Data Journalism Website OWNI Under Threat of Closure

[All links point to French sources unless otherwise stated]

News of the imminent demise of OWNI (OWNI.fr), an independent French data journalism media outlet, surfaced last week. Famous for its close collaboration with WikiLeaks, OWNI (a french play on words that could be translated into “Unidentified Web Object”) developed the WarLogs application and conducted a great deal of analyses on the SpyFiles among others, and has been consistently reporting on surveillance, internet governance and freedom online. The debate on how to make independent online news media outlet sustainable has been raging for a few years now in France.

According to reports, muddy internal reorganization efforts threaten a number of OWNI's journalists. There are a total of 17 employees 11 of whom are journalists, and it is unclear how many of them would be pushed out during the current restructuring limbo. Tensions between investors and the director of publication pushed the latter to leave the ‘flying saucer', as OWNI afficionados kindly name the media.

Here is a video presenting the OWNI team by Rage Mag :

Under the hashtag #OWNIoupas (another french play on words that translates into “to OWNI or not”, referring to Hamlet's “to be or not to be”), journalists launched a wiki where the discussion is engaged with netizens under the leitmotif: “OWNI ne ferme pas. OWNI est à vendre” (“OWNI is not closing. OWNI is for sale”).

#OWNIoupas, screenshot of the home page of the website.

#OWNIoupas, screenshot of the home page of the website.

The initiative aims at establishing a new economic model for the media and sustaining its unique position in the media scene. In order to give people enough time to contribute with ideas, OWNI journalists set up a 72-hour break:

@OWNI: Vous pouvez nous écrire sur demain@owni.fr On vous répond après la pause de 72h #OWNIoupas Propositions sur le wiki http://bit.ly/TMd86p

You can drop us a mail at demain@owni.fr. We'll answer back after our 72-hour break #OWNIoupas For ideas, use the wiki http://bit.ly/TMd86p

The goal of the conversation is stated by a cryptic tweet:

@OWNI: #OWNIoupas. Donc. http://owni.fr

#OWNIoupas. Therefore. http://owni.fr [A somewhat encrypted way to say that the question is not whether to shut down the website but to come up with sustainable ideas to make it live]

Many netizens spoke out in support of the “pure player” outlet:

@ParisMagik: C'est un mélange de démocratie et de liberté qui se meurt. Pendant que les autres continuent leur spectacle. #OWNIoupas

It is a mixture of democracy and freedom that is about to die. Meanwhile, all the others continue their show.

@JM_De_Marchi: #OWNI met son site en pause, lance un appel à contributions sur owni.fr et Twitter avec #OWNIoupas et cherche des investisseurs

#OWNI gives the site a break, kicks off a call for participations through owni.fr and Twitter with #OWNIoupas, and searches for investors

@RodolpheBaron: A travers @OWNI la question du modèle écode la #Presseweb se pose avec honnêteté mais aussi brutalité. http://owni.fr/ #OWNIoupas

Through @OWNI, the question of [sustainable] economic models for web media outlets is addressed with honesty but also brutality. #OWNIoupas

@micro_ouvert: Cher père Noël, tu veux bien amener un investisseur (pas con) sous le sapin d’@OWNI ? Steuplé. #OWNIoupas

Dear Santa, would you be so kind to bring an investor (not a dull one) under @ONWI's Christmas tree? Please. #OWNIoupas

@MorganeGB: WTF ? Open home — Avis aux amateurs, “Owni ferme donc on l'ouvre” http://owni.fr/ #OWNIoupas

WTF? Open home — Calling all amateurs, “Owni shuts down, thus we open it” http://owni.fr/ #OWNIoupas

OWNI's @manhack curated a Storify with a lot of heartening reactions in support of the endeavour, and interesting suggestions.

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