Investigative reporting co-operative, The Ferret, has secured a $100,000 grant to support its award-winning work
The two-year grant comes from Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm, and will enable The Ferret to expand its journalistic capacity, increase membership and impact, and strengthen its ability to hold power to account across Scotland, the UK and beyond.
Since The Ferret was launched in 2015 it has been a consistent thorn in the side of the powerful; investigating the most important issues in Scottish politics. These include exposing the far-right, the impact of fracking and reporting on the arms trade.
In the last three years, the small team of journalists have instigated changes in law, brought to light on little-known injustices, secured prominent corrections from public figures and continued the tradition of fearless investigative journalism in Scotland. Recently The Ferret broke a story about the £319,000 of “dark money” used to fund the Scottish Conservatives, prompting an investigation by the Electoral Commission.
“The Ferret has and always will depend upon its subscribers and readers to give it a sustainable economic future,” said Ferret journalist director, Rob Edwards.
“The grant from Omidyar Network, which comes with no strings and no loss of editorial control, will help us boost our reach and our income so that we can thrive and grow. We are very grateful for their commitment and generosity.”
Omidyar Network governance and citizen engagement principal, Andrew Clarke, said: "Omidyar Network is delighted to be supporting The Ferret with a $100,000 grant to develop the organisation and its membership.
“In addition to our global commitment to strengthening investigative reporting, we have prioritised independent media opportunities in the UK that are testing cooperative membership structures, with the aim of being self-sustaining and community-driven.
“The Ferret has a strong record of investigative reporting that uncovers stories of public interest in Scotland and holds power to account.”
The Ferret has now published over 530 public interest stories, and often partners with major Scottish and UK titles such as The Daily Record, The Guardian and others.
Last year, it launched the first Scottish fact-checking service, Ferret Fact Service (FFS), after a grant from Google’s digital news initiative. FFS has checked more than 100 claims for accuracy, and plays a crucial role in forcing politicians to maintain integrity and honesty in Scottish public debate.
As well as journalistic innovation, The Ferret has pursued different ways of engagement and interaction with readers. Its co-operative structure allows any paying member to attend annual meetings, and stand for election to its board of directors, which is split between journalists and readers.
Recently, The Ferret launched a new community project called Ferret Underground, which allows readers to get involved and provide feedback and advice on potential stories via a free text-messaging service. The project is powered by Groundsource software which supports text conversations at scale. The Ferret is the first media project in Europe to make use of the technology.
The Ferret is committed not only to great investigative journalism, but also to helping the public hold the powerful to account. A regular programme of teaching and workshops has allowed readers and community groups to see how The Ferret investigates using freedom of information requests, fact-checking and advanced research to uncover the truth.
The financial boost from Omidyar Network will be focused on increasing membership and reach, allowing The Ferret to punch above its weight as other media companies face reductions in capacity and scope.
Omidyar Network was set up by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam in 2004 to support innovative for-profit companies and non-profit organisations. It has committed over $1.3bn to projects across the globe.