The Nicaragua Dispatch aims to relaunch as Central America’s first crowdsource news platform

December 11, 2013

Many journalists are known for how they sign off at the end of a broadcast. But Tim Rogers, founder of The Nicaragua Disptach, is known for the bygone salutation that once began his editorials and letters, “Dear Gentle Reader.”

Rogers’ gentle readers haven’t gotten that welcome much since he put the website, an independent English-language news source in Nicaragua, on hold in July to accept a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University this fall. But last Friday, Rogers penned a letter announcing that The Nicaragua Dispatch was opening a Kickstarter campaign to revamp the website as “Central America’s first crowdsourced news platform.”

Tim Rogers

The Nicaragua Dispatch founder Tim Rogers, pictured at Tikal, Guatemala. Courtesy Tim Rogers

Three days into the crowd funding campaign, The Nicaragua Dispatch blew by its $5,000 goal with the support of more than 60 donors with over two weeks still to go. At this writing, the campaign has collected just under $6,000.

Those looking for a Christmas gift for the Nica-phile can donate to the Kickstarter campaign, which is collecting donations until 8 p.m. Dec. 25. 

Funds collected will go towards the website’s redesign and anything extra will support hosting and other fees.

“I’ve been really excited by the response I’ve received from readers so far,” Rogers told The Tico Times in a telephone interview from the U.S. city of Cambridge, Mass.

It was that outpouring of support from community bloggers and readers, both Nicaraguans and other English readers, that inspired Rogers to upgrade the website with a more inclusive, community-centered vision, a digital “parque central.”

Rogers said that the new website will source content from contributors through several pipelines. He envisions the new website as a social media aggregator, pulling content from Twitter, Facebook and other networks, as well as presenting articles and photos from community bloggers and discussion forums.

Ideally, the retooled site will be a constructive forum for ideas that will help give Nicaraguans another way to express their views and share opinions with an international audience, Rogers said.

“It used to be my soapbox, but now I’m standing down to let others use it,” he said. “Between the canal project, immigration, and politics, Nicaraguans are having conversations offline and online about what their place is in the world.”

Rogers worked for The Tico Times in Costa Rica from 2000 to 2004 as a political reporter, and as its Nicaragua correspondent writing for the Nica Times insert from 2005-2011. He launched The Nicaragua Dispatch in October 2011. 

The journalist hopes this new model will make the website a more financially sustainable, as well as content-wise.

Halfway into Rogers’ year-long term at Harvard, the pull of the news in Nicaragua quickly led him to publish the occasional article. But it was the quirky community that formed around the Nicaragua Dispatch during the past several years that inspired him to open up the platform so that readers could become content creators.

“If faced with extinction, will people come together and defend their community?” Rogers asked himself. If the early success of the Kickstarter campaign is any sign, the answer looks promising. 

 

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