Phillip Smith

What is Uncharted Journalism?

Here are 10 examples of bold experiments to discover new frontiers in reporting.

(Scroll down to continue reading)

When the Uncharted Journalism Fund was announced last Friday, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Would the idea resonate with people? Does the concept make sense? Would anyone express interest in being a trustee? The answer appears to be a resounding “yes.” And yet the question remains for many: What exactly is “uncharted journalism”? Read on to find out…

Finding an answer to this question is complicated by the fact that something “uncharted” implies that there is not yet a map. Nonetheless, that very notion is a good starting point to embark from, and a first litmus test that makes it easier to say “If we already have a map or recipe for this type of reporting, then it is probably not ‘uncharted.’”

Looking back, however, it is possible for us today to point to reporting that was embarked upon at the time without a clear sense of what the outcome would be, or if it was even possible to accomplish. The projects mentioned below speak to the ethos of uncharted journalism, and represent some of the most ambitious efforts that have been seen to date in each field.

By no means would it be feasible to expect that the small investments made by the Uncharted Journalism Fund would result in such monumental leaps forward, but each of these projects needed to start somewhere — possibly, just with the seed of an idea that needed to be tested — and that kind of germination is what I believe this fund can help to nurture.

Reporting that explores new territory

Here are just a handful examples of previously uncharted journalism undertakings, and it’s quite likely that there is still much uncovered ground in these emerging areas:

More Canadian examples wanted

There you have it: a sampling of what I believe to be some areas of reporting, or “acts of journalism,” that were previously untested and which demonstrate bold, experimental thinking — a leap of faith, a deep sense of curiosity, and a comfort with the possibility of failure. I believe these are the qualities that will be important to look for in proposals submitted to the Uncharted Journalism Fund in the coming months.

I’m quite certain that you have your own ideas and examples. And, specifically, I’d appreciate your help compiling more illustrative projects that highlight Canadian innovators. If you know of a reporting project that took a bold leap at the time, please take a moment to leave a comment below, or to drop me a note on Twitter.

P.S. It’s not too late to help spread the word about the Uncharted Journalism Fund! If you know someone who might make a great trustee, consider forwarding them a link to the announcement and adding a personal note about why you think it would be a great fit.

P.P.S. If you’ve already provided your information, or gotten in touch with me, I’ll be following up with you this weekend. Many thanks for your excitement, interest, and patience.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


Want to launch a local news business? Apply now for the journalism entrepreneurship boot camp

I’m excited to announce that applications are now open again for the journalism entrepreneurship boot camp. And I’m even more excited to ...… Continue reading