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YouCommNews first article

Saturday 20 November 2010

YouCommNewsThe Swinburne University of Technology Media Centre reports:

YouCommNews 'crowdsources' first project

Date posted: 16 Nov 2010

News commissioning website, YouCommNews, has published the first journalism project to be fully funded through its crowdsourcing model.

Launched in September by Swinburne University's Public Interest Journalism Foundation, YouCommNews is a digital media innovation that allows the direct funding of journalism by the public without the necessary involvement of traditional media organisations.

Over the last two months the website has garnered financial support for story ideas pitched by journalists and the community around issues of public importance.

The first article to be published ‘In Search of Non-Toxic Housing for Health’s Sake’, was funded by seventeen people, who contributed a total of $878 to cover its investigation.

Pitched by Journalist Toula Mantis, the story is the first instalment in a series of ten that look in detail at the lives of individuals suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It aims to raise awareness of the illness and explore the misconceptions surrounding it.

The article is featured on YouCommNews under a creative commons license, allowing other media organisations and individuals to publish the story.

“An initiative such as YouCommNews provides the opportunity for journalists to get back to the basics.” Mantis said. “They can get stories that are relevant to everyday readers without having to jump hoops to meet stakeholder interests before getting published.”

YouCommNews is a project of the Public Interest Journalism Foundation, based within Swinburne University’s Institute for Social Research. The Foundation has a wide brief under university statutes to explore opportunities and innovations for public interest journalism using new media.

The central innovation behind YouCommNews is using the web to bring audience members and journalists together in collaboration.

For more information on Public Interest Journalism Foundation and YouCommNews contact Project Officer, Tara Peck on (03) 9214 5239 or at

The above originally appeared here.

And here's the article mentioned above:

In Search of Non-Toxic Housing for Health’s Sake

Toula Mantis


In search of non-toxic housing for health's sakeMonbulk, Victoria. - A drive to the Dandenong Ranges is usually something to look forward to when in Melbourne, Australia. It's a big tourist attraction with rainforest, the old Puffing Billy steam railway and plenty of views and Devonshire teas.

But for 37 year old Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) sufferer Katherine McIntosh, the Dandenong Ranges are not about the joys of being alive, but rather life itself. For her, the journey is a necessity for survival. Her plight started with a bout of glandular fever some eight years ago. Today, she lives a constant guessing game of how to best manage toxicity levels on a daily basis to stay healthy.

More than just a bad case of the flu

Typically, CFS sufferers have to deal with symptoms that are like a nasty flu that goes on and on until it immobilises them. These symptoms include a sore throat, headaches, dizziness, tiredness and sleepiness and many other complications, aches and pains. In some, the symptoms become painfully accentuated with sensitivity to light, sounds and smells.

There are also many others whose plight with CFS is made worse from being extremely affected by tiny amounts of toxic chemicals in the environment. For example, a house being painted three suburbs away causes the CFS sufferer difficulties in breathing. The medical profession has dubbed the CFS sufferers’ inability to cope with toxicity, “Multiple Chemical Sensitivity” (MCS). McIntosh, a music teacher, belongs to this group. Hers is a daily plight that involves life-threatening effects from chemical sensitivities in addition to the already debilitating symptoms of CFS.

In order to teach, she has to have her music books decontaminated from toxic fumes due to the chemicals used in the ink and paper. She does this by wearing a mask to hang the books on a clothes line to “air” them for weeks before they can be used in her tutorials. Students must attend without wearing any perfume, make-up, deodorant or sunscreen. “All these common every day chemicals make me violently ill,” she said. “It’s very isolating,” she added.

In Search for Non-Toxic, Low-Cost Housing

Unfortunately, CFS sufferers with MCS are forced out of the comfort of an average suburban home. This is further complicated by having to survive on the Disability Pension. For example, half of McIntosh’s pension goes towards paying for medical expenses. As a result, sufferers resort to some sort of makeshift low-cost accommodation that can offer respite from toxic chemicals.

For McIntosh this has been a journey of moving into a tent then into a number of houses, into an old caravan and then back to an old tent. Every time she has tried to live in a “normal” house her health deteriorated. Presently, she lives in-between a tent and two caravans on loan at a friend’s property in the Dandenong Ranges with no running water or toilet. “If I had an adequate place to live I would have a chance of getting better or at least maintaining a level of health. Otherwise, I am looking at slowly becoming bed-bound,” she said.

Friends have tried many times to find her suitable accommodation but with no success. “A non-toxic house is all that is needed,” McIntosh said. To that end, her friends have pledged $45,000 towards land and the construction of a non-toxic house as part of the “Seeds of Hope” Appeal. The total cost is $350,000.

CFS is also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or “ME”.

The above originally appeared here.


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