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

Author: Olga Komarova | 5. May 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

Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) via MacArthur is organising a fund for freelance workers who are experiencing economic hardship and is seeking additional funders to contribute. AIR is committing $25,000 in Phase 1 to assess the range of needs and to cover bills, health care, rent, lost travel expenses, etc. AIR will distribute $599 per response to keep below the $600 W-2 threshold and to assure that undocumented producers can also apply for help. It is anticipated that funds will be distributed in early April. Phase 2 will begin in May in which AIR will commit another $25,000 but are hoping to raise additional funds to offer small, local newsrooms support at higher levels, maxing out at $1500-$2000. Recipients of the fund must be AIR members. 

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, introduces a research and practice platform for independent practitioners. The programme is 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 micro-fees offered through the platform will further the development of ongoing and upcoming research and projects over the coming months; the programme is open to all practitioners based in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The European Journalism Centre (EJC) and the Facebook Journalism Project (FJP) have launched a $3 million USD fund to support hundreds of community, local and regional European news organisations. Emergency core funding will support community engagement, address critical business needs, and facilitate coverage of the pandemic. EJC will prioritise providing grants for small and medium-sized news organisations supporting the communities most affected by the crisis. Full details and eligibility criteria can be found 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.

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.

Fundacion Gabo have launched Solutions Journalism Scholarships with the Open Society Foundations. Journalists in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua are invited to participate in the Solutions Journalism Scholarship Program which will award seven production grants of up to US $ 3,400 to investigative journalistic projects focused on solutions in written, audio, audiovisual, or web formats.

The Google News Initiative has launched the global Journalism Emergency Relief Fund to support small and medium-sized news organizations producing original news for local communities. The Fund’s aim is to support the production of original journalism for local communities in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Operating globally, it will provide an easily-accessible route to financial assistance at this critical time. Details and eligibility options here.

Internews have 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 new rapid response fund will give 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.

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 will 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.

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 now 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 will provide 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.

The Judith Neilson Institute has launched 3 different initiatives to support journalism throughout the crisis. JNI will 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.

Meedan’s Check Global program is launching 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.

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. If journalists find themselves in this situation, they can apply to receive an interest-free $500 loan, to be repaid in one year. The money will come solely from fellow journalists. More details here.

National Geographic’s new COVID-19 Emergency Journalism Fund will provide 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. 

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

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 will distribute grants of $500 to $1,000 based on applications that demonstrate an inability to meet an acute financial need, especially one resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Pulitzer Center has announced the Coronavirus News Collaboration Challenge, a new grant designed to encourage innovative journalist and newsroom collaboration on the coverage of the global coronavirus pandemic across state and national borders. This opportunity is open to all independent journalists and newsrooms in the United States and abroad.

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.

Splice is 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.

Women Photograph are offering 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 is 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

NOTE: You can find more Funding Opportunities here.


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