(ATHENS, GA) A working group called the Independent Journalists Resource Coalition (IJRC) was launched today at the University of Georgia to build an online clearinghouse of training and support services and offer in-person training for journalists working as freelancers and contractors.
The James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and the National Press Photographers Association, also headquartered at Grady, are spearheading the initiative which plans to bring new training and support to a growing number of journalists who work independently.
"Now more than ever, Americans need to get their news from a variety of places with a variety of voices but as newsrooms shrink, the number of voices is dwindling fast. It's an existential threat to our democracy,” said Bob Sullivan, an award-winning independent journalist who is leading the IJRC initiative as a member of the Cox Institute’s advisory board.
“In this chaotic environment, independent journalists can be an essential part of the solution, but we must find a way to provide them with the tools and protections afforded reporters at large media organizations,” Sullivan said.
The IRJC will leverage existing training platforms including the NPPA’s Business Practices Resources, which features tools such as the Cost of Doing Business Calculator.
"Visual Journalism is changing rapidly — from technology to business practices — and if you want to compete and succeed today you need to stay educated, informed and current,” said NPPA President Melissa Lyttle, an independent photojournalist. “This has the potential to be a huge resource, and furthermore shows the NPPA’s continued commitment to helping independent visual journalists."
The IJRC also plans to partner with the Small Business Development Center, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach, and will work directly with Area Director Laura Katz to craft business training programs specific to the needs of independent journalists. The IJRC will work with the Atlanta Press Club to test initial training and gain feedback from its independent members prior to a broader program launch.
Freelance and contract journalists face a myriad of issues in the content marketplace including negotiating fair compensation, acquiring legal aid and finding affordable technology services. Operating as an independent journalist essentially means running a small business, but many journalists don’t have the background and skills necessary to thrive in that environment. The IRJC intends to work with this community of journalists to identify their most pressing needs and find ways to address them through training and other service offerings.
The initial work of the IRJC is supported through a donation from Adam Levin, a New York-based consumer advocate and author. Organizations interested in joining or supporting the IRJC are encouraged to contact Keith Herndon, director of the Cox Institute, at [email protected].