By Hostwriter Ambassador Piotr Drabik
Cross-border journalism as a solo effort doesn’t make sense. Taking part in a duet, a quartet or a big group of colleagues from different countries can bring useful networking, interesting research and successful publications. I know, now you’re already envisioning the Pulitzer Prize gala, but we need to get back to the basic thing: how do you set up your cross-border team, especially in the coronavirus period? I prepared a few control questions, with which you can start building your own journalism project.
Do you like to work in groups in general?
This isn’t a stupid question. We aren’t perfect. Some of us have a predisposition towards leadership, but the rest of the people – don’t. Do you like be a leader or a normal team member? It’s very important to know what role you are most comfortable in, so you can avoid future problems with team communications. The structure of the group (even very small ones) and the separation of duties depends on the topic and period of the project.
What’s your interest?
Clearly define your favourite topics to work on. Forget about ideas that are not interesting for you. If you write articles or record podcasts about climate change, you can very easily find a journalist with common interests. You can also walk my way. I try to be open-minded and don’t focus on one topic. I took part in a project about Chinese influence in Europe and digital surveillance during COVID-19. You can find many different approaches to interesting topics, but remember – always choose issues that are actually interesting for you.
What’s your topic?
You can find a topic in two ways. Start building a team around a topic with cross-border potential – smuggling an illegal pesticide, money laundering by companies connected with the government or poaching of endangered species. When you’re looking for journalists for collaboration, it’s important to simply write in two to three sentences what is your topic, what are your goals (apply for a grant or researching) and contact info (email is the best, but social media links also are welcome). You don’t have a clearly defined topic of interest? No worries. With my list of sources below, you can find many fresh notices about cross-border projects.
Who are your friends?
Maybe you already have a group of friends living abroad, who are good for collaborating with and have the same interests. First of all – start by asking these colleagues about a new project. Some of these may have experience with cross-border journalism. My experience and that of my colleagues show how important it is to have personal knowledge about your potential team partners. You don’t have to be close friends. All you need is maybe one meeting during a media conference or common work in the past on a journalism topic. Why is it important? Conversation via email or WhatsApp isn’t enough. Building a cross-border team, you need to remember about jobs for a few weeks, months or even years. Many things, like budget stuff or delegating tasks, can be easier if you find a common language with your team members.
But what about the coronavirus? Of course, now it’s harder to find people for collaboration, if you’re used to making contacts through in-person meetings. But trust is still obligatory. If you find journalists for a cross-border project and don’t know them personally, you can ask your friends about this person and check out their previous work and experience via Google.
Do you need a team for a short or long-term project?
Everybody in your team needs to know what the final goal of the project is. Writing a common article in a few weeks, or doing a long-term investigation? Answers in each choice decide your next steps in setting up your team. Many cross-border teams are set up only for journalism grants. Their length often determines the duration of the project. A successful grant can give satisfaction, but it’s also a good networking opportunity for the next cross-border project. When you start setting up your team one time, it will be easier to use these contacts for your next journalism projects.
Where can I find people for a collaboration?
Hostwriter and the HostWIRE forum: An incredible resource with information about opportunities for journalists. You can find here long lists with fresh proposals for cross-border projects. Also, you can share your own ideas and find people for cooperation.
Facebook groups: I know, it’s obvious. But it’s really a great source for cross-border journalism. For example, the IJNet Forum FB group now has more than 5K journalists from around the world, sharing information about opportunities and new interesting projects.
Society of Freelance Journalists Slack channel – new places for cross-border journalism during COVID-19: This initiative, powered by the European Journalism Centre, is focusing on better cooperation between freelance journalists. In this Slack channel, you can find colleagues for cross-border projects or potential publishers for your story.