How to Help Journalists Go Global: IJNet Experience

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This story was first published by HackPack, an IJNet partner.

Climate change, immigration and refugee crises, trade wars, the FIFA World Cup — it doesn’t take long to fill a paper with story topics that demand cross-border collaborations.

The world has quickly evolved, but how do you professionally keep pace with it?

We’re covering a few key organizations and tools that help you adapt to that global world.

Our first is IJNet.

The International Center for Journalists created this project to help journalists learn about innovations and opportunities around the world. They also encourage the spread of professional knowledge.

HackPack talked to Samantha Berkhead, who manages a team of editors and writers at IJNet, to learn more about the project and how you can best utilize it.

Overview

Main goal: Help journalists of all nationalities and experience levels improve their skills and advance their careers. We believe that journalism is for everyone, and we work to ensure that the latest journalism resources, tools and opportunities are free and accessible to those who need it most.

Top countries by unique visitors: Brazil, United States, Mexico, Spain, Egypt

Languages: IJNet publishes in seven languages — Arabic, Chinese, English, Persian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish

Who is it for: IJNet focuses on developing journalists throughout their career, from journalists starting their career to an editor or leader in the newsroom. People always say that real learning comes through a combination of classroom study and practical, hands-on experience. The website acts as the “classroom,” and opportunities like fellowships or reporting trips are the real-world experience component.

From left to Taylor Mulcahey, overseeing oversees IJNet’s English-language content, and Samantha Berkhead, IJNet’s manager.
Taylor Mulcahey (left) and Samantha Berkhead (right) manage IJNet, a platform that provides resources for journalists.

Samantha, how specifically do you support such a large geographic area?

We’re constantly monitoring current news events and trends in each of our target regions to adjust our editorial strategy and provide the most relevant, timely resources. For example, Nicaragua saw major protests against government censorship of the media, and we covered how citizens and journalists alike used social media to circumvent this censorship.

Ahead of Cameroon’s elections in March, we published a look at how journalists in the country are working despite their government’s ban on political reporting. There are tons more examples like this. We work hard to stay on the pulse of journalism in every part of the world.

Who writes all of these stories? Do you accept pitches from journalists?

We’re open to pitches on a wide variety of topics. As long as a pitch falls within IJNet’s basic mission — articles that provide a practical utility to journalists or cover current media trends — we accept them. Additionally, articles that cover any of our priority regions — Latin America, the Middle East/North Africa, Russia and the former Soviet Union, Iran/Afghanistan and Sub-Saharan Africa — are more likely to be chosen. Anyone who would like to pitch an article to us can click here and fill out the form.

What have you found to be most useful for each media market?

In countries like Iran and China, where the environment for journalists is heavily restricted, simply existing in the specific language is a major source of support. We find that journalists in restricted or closed societies are less in need of learning fancy new tech like 360° video, since they’re struggling to just do their jobs. They’re more interested in topics like basic journalism skills and digital security. Journalists in countries with more developed, open media climates are more interested in finding new ways to tell their stories, whether through mobile journalism or data journalism.

In the Middle East/North Africa region, there is a particular need for support in the area of media entrepreneurship. For that reason, IJNet started the Mentoring Center for digital media entrepreneurs in the region. Since it began in 2014, the Mentoring Center has helped 31 media entrepreneurs in the region hone their startup ideas and develop sustainable business models. Applications for this year’s round just closed, and we’re excited to guide the latest cohort of the Mentoring Center to success.

At the same time as all this, there are universal issues that are relevant to every region, like misinformation and the need for better business models for journalism, so we cover these as well.

The other way we tailor our strategy by region is through social media. While we use Facebook and Twitter for our English social media, we just use Sina Weibo for Chinese. We also created a Telegram channel this year to better reach our Russian-language audience.

Which part of IJNet receives the most traffic?

Our opportunities section is easily our most popular section. Readers especially like worldwide opportunities that are open to journalists from any country, and have some sort of cash prize or stipend. For that reason, we publish at least one worldwide opportunity every weekday, with regional/country-specific opportunities less frequently.

How do you search for grants&jobs? How do you select them?

At IJNet, we only select grants, fellowships, trainings and other opportunities that are free or low-cost for journalists. We especially seek out opportunities that provide a stipend or cover the journalists’ expenses in some way, since we’re keenly aware of the fact that journalism is a challenging career and it shouldn’t cost anything to improve your skills.

What advice would you have for journalists who are applying to a grant or fellowship?

My biggest advice is to apply to everything. Even if you feel you’re not qualified for something, you really won’t know unless you apply. You might be surprised by the outcome! IJNet has also published some articles with advice for applying to journalism grants and other opportunities. They’re essential reading before you dive into any application.

What’s new on IJNet? What plans do you have for the future?

Lots of things! We recently launched the Journalism 101 toolkit on our site. We found that our readers really wanted a permanent spot on the IJNet website where they could find evergreen tip sheets and resources on the fundamental skills of journalism: writing, editing and reporting. We created the toolkit to give them that.

This year, we’re working on forging new partnerships with media-focused organizations around the world and strengthening our existing ones with partners like HackPack.

Lastly, we’re working on redesigning our website. The new site will be more streamlined, user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing. It should go live toward the end of the year.

What do you consider your most impressive achievements so far?

It’s hard to name just one thing! I would say that I’m especially in awe of the community we’ve helped create among our followers in places like the IJNet Forum on Facebook. IJNet isn’t just a static place on the internet that people visit every once in a while. It’s a connective tissue that brings journalists from all across the globe a little closer together. When journalists have a place where they can get support from one another, they become more empowered. It sounds cliché, but we’re stronger together.

From left to right: Taylor Mulcahey and Samantha Berkhead during a typical day at IJNet.
The IJNet team answered questions on how the platform is a resource for journalists to connect, learn and grow.

 

HackPack is the on-demand marketplace and freelancer management tool that helps publishers find, pay and manage a community of over 12,000 journalists in 160 countries, so they can tell the stories that matter.

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