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Funding and sustainability measures to support media in the COVID-19 pandemic

Author: Olga Komarova | 17. August 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented disruptions to the lives of journalists and media professionals. Beyond the difficulties faced in efforts to cover the crisis safely, with consideration for journalists’ mental and physical health, they also must deal with the severe financial uncertainty caused by the crisis which threatens the very existence of major news organisations. Despite the fact that news organisations have seen a major increase in traffic and news consumption as people attempt to understand the pandemic, journalism’s financial situation is growing increasingly more precarious.

Scores of news and media development organisations have developed and compiled valuable resources to help cover the pandemic, and many have provided advice on how to keep media businesses afloat, such as the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) who hosted a webinar on strategies for financial survival.

However, it is still often impossible for many journalists and news organisations to operate without some sort of financial assistance. To help alleviate the pressure on newsrooms and journalists, especially freelance journalists, several companies and organisations have committed to financially support the international effort to share valuable and accurate information at a time when it is needed most.

Financial Support for Media During the COVID-19 Crisis

Open opportunities

The Fund for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) is providing rolling Coronavirus Grants for U.S. Freelancers. FIJ’s Board of Directors is looking for stories on the coronavirus that break new ground and expose wrongdoing – such as corruption, malfeasance, or abuse of power – in the public and private sectors. FIJ encourages proposals written for ethnic media as well as those submitted by journalists of color and involving the impact of the coronavirus in U.S. ethnic communities. Grants average $5,000 but can be as high as $10,000. They cover out-of-pocket expenses such as travel, document collection, and equipment rental. FIJ also considers requests for small stipends.

Microloans for Journalists have been set up to assist journalists who been laid off, furloughed, or had their pay cut as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally this program was launched to allow journalists to provide other journalists with microloans. Since the initiation, journalists around the country have helped 27 fellow journalists get $500 loans. Many of those who pledged to lend, but who have not yet been matched, have expressed willingness to turn their loans into gifts. As of July 6th, there were nearly $50,000 in gift pledges and the initiative is matching journalists in need solely with other journalists who have advised they are providing money as gifts, not as loans. More details here.

Fundacion Gabo have launched second edition of the Fund for Research and New Narratives on Drugs. The Fund will award between 15 and 22 scholarships, ranging between 2,000 and 6,000 dollars each, aimed at people who work as freelance journalists or who have permanent links, or in collaboration, with the media in Ecuador, Bolivia , Colombia, Paraguay, Peru and Mexico. The call is open in the categories of investigative journalism, local journalism, innovative journalism and collaborative journalism. Likewise, the proposals can propose text, video, web, documentary, sound journalism or photography products —or a combination of various formats. The second edition of FINND seeks to stimulate proposals that analyse, from innovative approaches, the intersection between phenomena related to drugs declared illicit and human rights issues , violence, public health, social policy and other lines of investigation framed in the context of the crisis derived from the coronavirus.

The International Women’s Media Foundation’s Journalism Relief Fund with the initial support of Twitter, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, and the Foundation for a Just Society, is open to woman-identifying journalists in dire straits – journalists who have faced significant financial hardship, lost work, were recently laid off, or who urgently need assistance to avoid severe, irreversible outcomes. This fund provides small grants of up to $2,000 USD per request, though special consideration will be given on a case-by-case basis to those who may have greater financial needs.

National Geographic’s new COVID-19 Emergency Journalism Fund provides a series of grants to top quality storytellers and journalists (individuals, not institutions) who may be “stuck” all over the world. They want to engage them to produce “hyper-local” reporting to address and meet the needs of the most vulnerable and underserved populations negatively impacted by COVID-19. National Geographic will support stories on medical and health impacts, but will also encourage reporting that covers social, emotional, economic, education, and equity issues as well. This call for proposals is reviewed on a rolling basis. Applications may be submitted until further notice. National Geographic’s aims to send out decisions every two weeks, but the volume of submissions might slow that process at times.

The Rory Peck Trust have launched a COVID-19 Hardship Fund which aims to support freelance journalists during the pandemic. This fund is used to provide practical and financial support to freelance journalists whose work and livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19.

Reporting Democracy is issuing Coronavirus Story Grants for stories that reveal how the Covid-19 crisis is reshaping politics and society in Central, Eastern, and Southeast Europe. Successful proposals will receive a grant of between 500 and 2,500 euros. The call is open to freelance and staff journalists from the Visegrad Four countries of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary, as well as the Balkan countries of Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, North Macedonia, and Greece. More details here.

Facebook has pledged to invest $100 million in the news industry at a time when the ongoing coronavirus pandemic means that accurate reporting is more important than ever. $25 million will be provided in grant funding for local news through the Facebook Journalism Project, while the remaining $75 million will come in the form of “additional marketing spend” to worldwide news organisations.

Closed opportunities 

Please note that many organisations that have already closed their applications have indicated they are fundraising in order to launch subsequent phases of their programmes. Some of them accept COVID-19-related proposals under regular funding schemes or have launched programmes in other thematic areas that support reporting in the context of the pandemic.

Internews launched a rapid response fund to help small, local news organisations worldwide survive in the face of COVID-19. The fund launched with $100,000 to be made available immediately and is targeting $1 million in donations to provide immediate support for journalists globally. The rapid response fund aimed to provide Internews’ local media partners – such as community radio stations and online news outlets in more than 80 countries – access to emergency funding so they can continue to operate in increasingly dire economic conditions. Second round of applications was closed on May 28th. 

The European Journalism Centre (EJC) and the Facebook Journalism Project (FJP) launched a $3 million USD fund to support hundreds of community, local and regional European news organisations. Emergency core funding supported community engagement, addressed critical business needs, and facilitated coverage of the pandemic. First wave of granting was closed on April 25th 2020. In the first wave of applications the EJC received 1,857 applications in total, 95 organisations and freelancers were selected as grant recipients. EJC announced there will be subsequent funding waves in the coming months (dates to be confirmed).  To stay informed sign up to receive updates about the fund here.

Women Photograph offered emergency funds for freelance photographers who have already been hit hard by COVID-19 and will continue to be impacted by loss of assignments as we face this global health crisis. Many independent photojournalists have substandard access to healthcare and cannot afford to face prolonged loss of income. This Emergency Fund was meant to provide a small amount of one-time support to independent women and non-binary photographers who need assistance — there are no restrictions on what the funding can cover: it can be healthcare, childcare, rent, or professional expenses. Photographers may request up to $500 in support. The second round of the Women Photograph Emergency Fund closed on May 22. The organisation is continuing to fundraise for a third cycle and will announce when sufficient funds were raised to process another batch of applications.

The Judith Neilson Institute has launched 3 different initiatives to support journalism throughout the crisis. JNI aimed to boost funding for freelancers and casual contributors, provide a free news service for Australia’s 450 community radio stations, and help tackle misinformation on COVID-19, including on social media. The Institute is no longer accepting applications for funding under this initiative. However, JNI continues to welcome unsolicited grant ideas and proposals, as part of its grants program.

Meedan’s Check Global program launched COVID-19 Microgrants, specifically aimed at groups working within the context of emerging economies (North Africa/West Asia, Africa, Latin America, Asia-Pacific region) in an attempt to support independent media, fact-checkers, citizen journalists, activists, and technology and digital literacy enthusiasts in their efforts to cover the outbreak. The first round of funding has been closed, with the possibility of second round openings.

PEN America is expanding its long-standing Writers’ Emergency Fund as part of efforts to support the literary community at a time when the health and livelihoods of so many are at risk. PEN America distributed grants of $500 to $1,000 based on applications that demonstrated an inability to meet an acute financial need, especially one resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. PEN America advised they distributed grants to 10 times as many writers within the space of two months as they normally do in a year. As a result, however, the Fund has been temporarily depleted. PEN America will continue to seek additional donations for the Fund. For now, the acceptance of new applications was paused until further notice.

Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) via MacArthur  organised a fund for freelance workers who were experiencing economic hardship while also seeking additional funders to contribute. AIR was committing $25,000 in Phase 1 to assess the range of needs and to cover bills, health care, rent, lost travel expenses, etc. AIR distributed $599 per response to keep below the $600 W-2 threshold and to assure that undocumented producers can also apply for help. Recipients of the fund were required to be AIR members. As of May 2020 AIR is no longer accepting applications. 

The Art Jameel Research and Practice Platform, in response to the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the arts and creative sector, introduced a research and practice platform for independent practitioners. The programme was intended primarily for those who work on a per-project basis and whose practices have been affected by programme cancellations and project changes, locally or globally. The programme was open to all practitioners based in the Middle East and North Africa region. The deadline for applications for the third and last cycle of the Platform was June 7, 2020. 

The Google News Initiative global Journalism Emergency Relief Fund was launched to support small and medium-sized news organisations producing original news for local communities. The Fund’s aimed to support the production of original journalism for local communities in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Operating globally, it provided an easily-accessible route to financial assistance at this critical time. Details and eligibility options were presented here. Application is currently closed.

The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) has partnered with Facebook to support the fact-checking community working on the COVID-19 related misinformation with a budget of $1 million. The budget was planned to be distributed as flash grants based on approved proposals including, but not limited to, translation of fact checks from native languages to different languages, multimedia (videos, infographics, podcasts) production about COVID-19, working with health experts for evidence-based and scientific coverage, audience development initiatives that use innovative formats, such as offline or interactive communication, to better reach people with reliable information, and fact-checkers supporting public authorities with reliable information for better communication about COVID-19.  Application is closed.

The Pulitzer Center has implemented the Coronavirus News Collaboration Challenge, a grant designed to encourage innovative journalist and newsroom collaboration on the coverage of the global coronavirus pandemic across state and national borders. This opportunity was open to all independent journalists and newsrooms in the United States and abroad. As of 4/22/20 this opportunity was suspended.

Splice was working with Facebook to distribute $5,000 micro-grants in support of small- to mid-sized news orgs and their freelancers in Asia financially affected by Covid-19. The applications are closed.

NOTE: You can find more Funding Opportunities here.

*The initial GFMD text summarising COVID-19 funding opportunities was published on May 05 2020. This text is an updated version.


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