European Journalism Centre organised a series of Journalism Funders Forum. Three events in London, Hamburg and Paris which were meant to bring funders and creators of journalism projects. Great start in my opinion – as both sides don’t have many opportunities to express their concerns and when one talks to donors pitching ideas is not the right moment to talk more broadly and openly about what can be improved in funding journalism.

This is why all three events were held under Chatham House rules – to ensure open debate. I had a pleasure to join the panel “” together with representatives from Der Spiegel, Krautreporter

In my presentation I touched couple topics regarding funding journalism from CEE and small/medium startup perspective.

Innovation vs press freedom

Available funds can be divided into two groups. One is for being cool and innovate. Look for new technologies, experiment with brand new trends, create new software. Second – is to simply survive in countries which are considered “developing” or without diplomacy “not cool”. This divide creates a very unfair image that only countries (mostly 4-5 from Western Europe) can actually innovate whereas other not. This maybe due to a wrong feeling that in states which struggle with freedom of press noone has time to innovate. Or that there is no proper ecosystem for newsroom/media innovation.

Innovation and press freedom

What if we were to find a way to connect both. Freedom of press is as important as innovation and time that we think those are separate is over. It’s like with democracy we cannot stop caring about it. If we want to tackle filter bubble let’s give it to organizations in countries which struggle with high level of propaganda. They have a huge need to get through to other people. Motivation is different. And limitations are the best

Metrics

Are important to both sides. Usually donor demands, grantee considers as necessary evil. In my experience only few donors actually talk and negotiate those. Whereas there is a chance that after good conversation metrics can be aligned with donor needs and serve well as project milestones which make it better by establishing doable but not easy goals. Reporters should be happy that the metrics are not taking them away from work and funders that important issues are being enforced by decided points.

Dependent independent

Big publishers are in a very exclusive position. It’s much easier for them to get extra funding – but the rules big get bigger is very bad for the whole ecosystem. Many grants allow only formal teams to apply and not cover (sic!) salaries. This is a huge problem and even if one applies they have to get extra job to complete bigger project. Independent, young, innovative groups cannot be so dependent on their more established colleagues.

Journalism?

Most of the small/medium groups, initiatives are started by journalists and they only have such people on board. Whereas submitting grant proposals requires different skills to write, budget and plan. Plus – if the process is successful not only to do the journalistic project but also account it, do a report and finalize all paperwork with the donor. That is a setback for reporters even before they started to write proposal. Donors could/should address it and offer some help without compromising their own formal needs. It’s all about allowing journalists do their job and not pushing too much. But it’s not a complaint about donors – we get they have their won requirements.

Many interesting things were said during the event. I only covered here my part but I came back with very insightful information from donors how to think about future of Outriders. Which would not be possible without this close gathering. I hope this dialogue continues and EJC will go forward with the idea bringing more CEE donors to the mix.

Photo by Christina Elmer.