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Credit: By Jpatokal on Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.
Journalism is well-known as a competitive industry but there are many cases where working together on a story can reap bigger rewards than the lone wolf doggedly pursuing their mark.

The internet and social media have brought even greater opportunities for collaboration, but Hostwriter, a newly-launched platform founded in Germany, aims to make it that bit easier.

"Hostwriter is a platform for journalists that makes you collaborate world-wide," explained Sandra Zistl, a freelance journalist and co-founder of Hostwriter, "and we designed the collaboration in three ways."

These three "statuses" that Zistl and her co-founders, Tabea Grzeszyk and Tamara Anthony,
hope to foster on the platform cover the finding of information, collaboration and accommodation.

Alongside professional information detailing areas of expertise, publications and preferred media, journalists who sign up for a profile can choose to offer any combination of opportunities for giving advice, joint research or hosting colleagues and links to examples of their more recent work.

hostwriter profile
Screenshot of the Hostwriter profile page, once completed and published

Keeping members' personal information secure has been a key concern for Zistl and her colleagues though, so the community is closed "to PR people and companies", she said, and new applicants are screened before being approved for access.

The whole thing is about having as many journalists as possible because the better the matches the better the stories and the better the whole platformSandra Zistl, Hostwriter
"We've already created co-operations with universities, journalistic foundations, trade unions, in Germany and other countries", said Zistl. "Those [applicants] get an entrance code because we're already sure that the members are journalists."

Despite only launching at the start of May, at Berlin's re:publica social media conference, Hostwriter currently has more than 430 approved journalists from 26 countries who are willing to co-operate on different levels.

"A few days ago we got an email from a journalist who is doing research for a story and contacted three people and two wrote back immediately," siad Zistl. "So the network is already working but there is huge potential because once you register, one thing you have to give is your area of expertise so that is going to be the main search engine.

"In a perfect world you would be able to look for someone based in Bangladesh, for example. who is a specialist in the textile industry and then you get five journalists back in the search."

hostwriter search
Screenshot of the search function from Hostwriter.org

Zistl said Hostwriter is the "brainchild of the board of Journalists Network", a German non-profit that organises research trips and press conferences for young journalists, and although professional competition may be a possible hurdle, it need not be a zero sum game.

"If you're a print journalist doing research with a radio journalist then you're not going to disturb each other," she said. "Even if you are three print journalists you can be writing in different countries and work together to make a bigger and better story, like with the recent whistleblowing stories."

A main hope for the project is for independent journalists from around the world to join, including documentary filmmakers and balanced, professional bloggers, especially from countries where there is no "journalistic infrastructure", she said, such as press freedom.

"A perfect thing would be that in one year we have at least one hostwriter in each country across the globe," Zistl said, "and then maybe the first 20 to 50 hostwriter stories have been published.

"The whole thing is about having as many journalists as possible because the better the matches, the better the stories, and the better the whole platform."

Hostwriter is a non-profit organisation, funded by a range of media and start-up partner organisations.

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