English-language news site HK Free Press to launch in June

May 18, 2015 16:29
Evan Fowler (left) and Tom Grundy hope HKFP will help reverse the decline in press freedom in Hong Kong. Photo: EJ Insight

Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP), a non-profit organization, is launching a free English-language news website next month after recently completing the first round of an online crowd-funding campaign.

“We don’t pitch this as a business. We want press freedom,” Evan Fowler, co-founder of HKFP and a contributor to Stand News, told EJ Insight in an interview.

During last year’s Occupy protests, some international news agencies may have found it difficult to follow what was going on in Hong Kong, Fowler said.

It is important to have an alternative news source in the city that can provide local news in English, rather than having to rely only on the South China Morning Post, he said.

For example, Fowler said, some people asked him in November what the gouwu parades -- in which groups of protesters went "shopping" in an extremely leisurely fashion to disrupt the business of retailers -- were all about.

Gouwu, which means shopping in putonghua, was an alternative way for members of the Occupy movement to continue their pro-democracy protests after the Occupy sites in Mong Kok were cleared by police in November. 

HKFP will be a good platform to follow and reinterpret these interesting topics for an English-speaking audience, he said. 

“Hong Kong’s press freedom has been declining rapidly over the last couple of years. We need a positive, direct response to that,” Tom Grundy, co-founder of HKFP and a Hong Kong-based freelance journalist, said.

“The funding model for journalism is broken ... donations, sponsorship, native ads and display ads could not work on their own,” Grundy said.

“Our intention is to try and experiment with all of them. Our aim is to exist, to be sustainable and to grow.

“Our readership will be beyond Hong Kong. We can’t just target the minority who read English here.”

But Grundy said local professionals are also among HKFP's target readership.

Apart from providing local news, HKFP will adopt the approach of the Huffington Post, an online news aggregator in the United States, which encourages people to contribute their stories to the platform.

“Hopefully at some point, we will have paid freelancers as well,” Grundy said.

HKFP recently raised HK$220,000 through crowd-funding, beating its target of HK$150,000. It expects the monthly expenses of its four-person operation to be about HK$50,000, according to its crowd-funding proposal.

The next crowd-funding target is HK$500,000.

Grundy said the website will have display ads from Google AdSense‎ at its initial stages.

"It will give us some analytical data before we ask an agency to take control of the display ads," he said.

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Chief reporter at EJ Insight