An ambitious online newspaper is bringing a new voice to the Israeli media scene. Owned by a cooperative, Megafon wants to offer a fresh alternative to what it sees as a stagnated media scene.
The Israeli media market is small, and controlled by a small number of very rich families. For these media moguls, freedom of the press is not always in their personal best interests, explains Tuvi Pollack, the editor-in-chief, director and co-founder of Megafon. Since all of them live in glass houses, none want to publish information that may be detrimental to them or their buddies.
According to Tuvi, despite its democratic façade, the Israeli media is far from being free: In fact there is no independent Israeli press, free of political pressure and vested financial interests.
The idea for Megafon was conceived in September 2011, and the cooperative was registered on 26th February, 2012. It has 55 members, and over 100 people voluntarily provide fresh news, editorials, photography and reports. Megafon’s homepage is updated several times a day, and includes content from editors, journalists, reporters and photographers from around Israel, both veterans and newcomers. They cover everything from politics, the Middle East and world events to culture, sports, fashion, nightlife, science and technology.
For now both costs and revenue are low, but its editors hope it will become economically viable. To achieve profitability, we will engage in advertising, syndication, publishing, blogging or any other journalistic activity that does not compromise our values, says Tuvi.
The newspaper does not have physical offices, instead conducting all its work through the internet. For example, Tuvi has never actually met the man who designed and built the website, and the staff use private Facebook groups to communicate. We also have a general Facebook group for all our membership and workers, which is both our virtual office and our watercooler, he says.
There hasn’t been a cooperative newspaper in Israel for decades, says Tuvi. I think the time has come for the cooperative model to rise again, given the global economic situation and the wave of social protest throughout the world, he says. I hope that this form of employment will enable us to be free, speak our minds without fear and support ourselves, instead of enriching the tycoons.