Collaboration between independent journalists all over Europe and connection with their audiences are increasingly becoming key factors for their success. This is especially important in countries where journalists are under increased risk of losing their jobs due to political or economic constrains. With greater support from their societies, these independent voices can become stronger and more impactful. Therefore, Free Press Unlimited is leading the project ‘Enhancing Audience-Supported Collaborations for Empowered Media and Societies’, co-funded by the European Commission.

Our aim is to support collaboration between journalists and other media professionals from eight European Union countries, and help them find additional sources of sustainable income through crowdfunding. In this project, Free Press Unlimited works together with Transitions' platform Press Start and is supported by the Free Press Unlimited Czech office Free Press for Eastern Europe (FPEE) and Prague Media School.

Collaborative crowdfunded journalism

Journalists from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, Czechia and Greece will be invited to create collaborative stories to be pitched and then funded through the crowdfunding platform Press Start. To help journalists reach their goal, Press Start will match this funding for each application.

In parallel, Prague Media School will provide a series of four-day training on collaborative journalism methods and techniques, and tools for crowdfunding investigative journalism. The trainers at these school will represent all parties participating in the project organizations and beyond, bringing latest practical expertise from the field.

One-of-a-kind expertise

Each of the project partners brings their unique expertise and experience to support the participating journalists. Free Press Unlimited and Free Press for Eastern Europe are co-running a pioneer cross border collaboration of journalists, with the Russian Language News Exchange that connects independent media from 15 Eastern European, Baltic and Central Asian countries. Prague Media School will base the courses for the project on the know-how it has gained through its work with mixed groups of media professionals from inside and outside the EU. Press Start was created by Transitions, that has been a leading journalism trainer in Central and Eastern Europe for over 20 years. The supporting partner of the project, Center for Independent Journalism in Hungary, specializes in investigative journalism training.

Learning by doing

After receiving the training at Prague Media School, the journalists will continue to learn by doing. The graduates will collaborate on joint projects and apply for crowdfunding on the Press Start platform. Preparation of those projects and their further production and dissemination will be supported by online coaches and mentors from Free Press Unlimited and FPEE. They will guide participants through each stage of a successful collaborative journalism production on the one hand, and a successful crowdfunding campaign on the other. Special attention will be given to engaging formats and distribution strategies.

Building a network

In addition to the training and mentoring that the participating journalists receive, the project will also enable them to attend European media freedom conferences to boost network opportunities. Examples of these are the World Press Freedom Conference in The Hague, and the International Journalism Festival in Perugia. Due to COVID-19 these events will mostly be online. The aim is to achieve greater attention for collaborative journalism as a theme, and to create an opportunity for journalists to meet, share experiences, and learn from each other.

Expected outcomes

The project aims to support the viability of independent journalism in EU countries where media freedom is in decline, by creating a significant, sustainable source of income, for European journalists working on collaborative stories, through crowdfunding. By training and mentoring journalists, we enable them to continue on this path independently. Improving journalists’ profiles created on the Press Start website helps increase the chances of building cross-border teams, for small media outlets that would otherwise have difficulty finding experts on a given subject of investigation.

 

The European Commission

This project is co-funded by the European Commission under the Pilot Project: Supporting investigative journalism and media freedom in the EU (DG CONNECT). This text reflects the author’s view and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.