[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”).
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:
You can drop us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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:
#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:
It is a mixture of democracy and freedom that is about to die. Meanwhile, all the others continue their show.
#OWNI gives the site a break, kicks off a call for participations through owni.fr and Twitter with #OWNIoupas, and searches for investors
Through @OWNI, the question of [sustainable] economic models for web media outlets is addressed with honesty but also brutality. #OWNIoupas
Dear Santa, would you be so kind to bring an investor (not a dull one) under @ONWI's Christmas tree? Please. #OWNIoupas
WTF? Open home — Calling all amateurs, “Owni shuts down, thus we open it” http://owni.fr/ #OWNIoupas