Credit: Photo by Timo Wielink on Unsplash

Non-profit collaborative network Hostwriter is planning to launch a remote, cross-border newsroom in 2021 to continue its mission to 'unbias the news'.

Founded in 2013 and launched in 2014, Hostwriter spent its early years building a community of international journalists of diverse ethnic origins, gender, disability, class, age, religion or geographical location.

Hostwriter enabled its network to connect and collaborate via chat rooms. It also provided job opportunities and calls for pitches. It now counts has more than 5,000 journalists from 154 countries.

"We were facilitators and we created a structure for creators," says Tabea Grzeszyk, CEO and co-founder, Hostwriter.

Her book, "Unbias the News: Why diversity matters for journalism", followed last year as the next step in its evolution. Here, Hostwriter's network had provided their own accounts of the barriers they had faced in their field and potential ways to fix them.

"This was the first time that we as an organisation took advantage of our diverse network," explains Grzeszyk.

"First we created the network, now we benefitted from it."

Hostwriter has been publishing stories throughout the coronavirus pandemic, providing its networks with more tools to collaborate. But it still lacked an actual newsroom and a dedicated publishing arm, which Grzeszyk feels would help them have a greater impact.

Operating a remote newsroom

Plans to launch a remote newsroom in 2021 are underway, though still not finalised. What is definite, however, is that it will be a cross-border newsroom, meaning all staff will be working remotely - something the coronavirus pandemic showed was a viable working model.

Having a central, physical office in, say, Berlin where Hostwriter is based, also does not make sense for its mission of going beyond the Western perspective.

What do we not see when a homogenous newsroom is covering the news?Tabea Grzeszyk

An editorial board, which will also be the main decision-making body, will initially represent four different continents (Asia, Africa, Europe and North America).

"The editorial board will listen to the network, see what stories are there and have a discussion about what we commission.

"We want to commission pieces with intersectional perspectives: what are the blind-spots in journalism? What do we not see when a homogenous newsroom is covering the news?" she explains.

The network will be publishing stories on a new website as well as on existing channels. This also means Hostwriter will be hiring for new positions next year. It will start small, with part-time roles in the initial publishing round.

Funding the remote newsroom

This endeavour has been made possible with seed funding totalling €250,000. This has been raised through a project grant by the German Bosch Foundation, institutional funding from the Adessium Foundation in The Netherlands, plus Hostwriter's own revenue from peer training and counselling. However, this is just a starting point.

The decision to go down the publishing route is also one borne out of necessity. Until now, Hostwriter relied on philanthropy for at least three quarters of its funding. The rest comes from training and counselling.

In the years ahead, Grzeszyk said she would like to see the philanthropic revenue reduced to a quarter. That means seeking out new revenue streams, aiming for four or five in total.

For example, Hostwriter is likely to introduce a membership model in the future. Syndication of content and publication partnerships are other options on the table.

"I hope this new newsroom will give us more visibility to go out with this mission," says Grzeszyk.

"Philanthropy will remain important, journalism costs a lot of money and if you want in-depth, quality coverage where everyone gets paid, we will need this money."

The test will be to see how cross-border journalism and a diverse newsroom can help deliver journalism which 'fills in the gaps' in the news cycle.

"We want to give a voice to our amazing colleagues who are hindered by structural barriers and go beyond tokenism," Grzeszyk concluded.

You can apply to register at Hostwriter here, subject to an internal vetting process. Keep an eye on its Medium account for more updates regarding opportunities in 2021.

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