The Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) has launched a database to help connect solutions journalism freelance writers and commissioning editors.
SJN's Talent Network is inspired by The Washington Post's namesake database. In similar fashion, freelancers supply information on their location, medium, previous solutions journalism work, plus any story pitches they have. Editors can then directly commission solutions stories based on the freelancer's profile.
Leading the databse is SJN community manager Jules Hotz, who said in an email to Journalism.co.uk that the Talent Network could be a crucial, free resource for both parties.
Freelancers have found work hard to come by this year because editors have been preoccupied by the onslaught of major news stories like the Australian bushfires, the coronavirus pandemic, the racial injustice protests, climate change and also the upcoming US elections.
But equally, for newsrooms struggling to keep up or looking for a new way to cover these huge news stories, a solutions-minded freelance journalist could be an asset.
"Since newsrooms are understandably strapped in trying to cover those many, ever-changing stories, it seems harder than ever for freelancers to get the attention of editors," Hotz explains.
"Since solutions journalism takes time, and is not breaking news in itself, it can be hard for a freelancer pitching a solutions story to compete with 2020's many crises for coverage.
"On the other hand, so many editors have told us that solutions stories complement their newsrooms' breaking news stories by exploring how other places have handled these crises, and reporting on the problem with an eye to who is making progress to solving it (see, for example, our 1000+ stories on responses to the coronavirus pandemic). So, if a newsroom staffer doesn't have time or resources to tell those non-breaking solutions stories, freelancers can fill that gap."
It also means that editors can look outside of their normal pool of contacts for the stories they produce, as SJN has stated it will help editors to prioritise journalists of colour, as well journalists experiencing financial hardship from covid-19.
"Everyone benefits - the publication, the freelancer, and the audience - when new voices are given an opportunity to do the reporting, and bring with them their deep expertise of certain communities and issue areas," Hotz adds.
"And over the last few months, I've personally seen many editors make an earnest effort to try to recruit new writers, particularly those who have been historically marginalised or have had their communities misrepresented, in response to our industry's many biases."
Why are we doing this? Because we want to make it as easy as possible for editors to work w/ new voices. And because we want to make sure the world's solutions stories are being told, regardless of how 'connected' the storyteller is. We need those stories now more than ever! (4/)— Julia Hotz (@hotzthoughts) October 13, 2020
To sign up, SJN offers these notes for journalists and editors:
For freelance journalists:
- Fill out this short form.
- Your responses will be made available to editors who request to see the database of freelance profiles (note: only editors representing paying publications will be given permission to access the database).
- For the network’s initial launch, SJN will help editors prioritise (1) journalists of colour, and/or (2) journalists experiencing financial hardship from covid-19.
- Editors will get in touch with you directly if they would like to assign you a solutions story.
- Email Jules Hotz at juliah[at]solutionsjournalism.org to receive access to the database. Include a few lines regarding (1) what sort of solutions story you are looking to assign, and (2) what you pay freelancers (note: only editors representing paying publications will be given permission to access the database).
- Priority will be given to editors with publications represented in the Solutions Story Tracker®.
- Based on your coverage needs, Jules Hotz will recommend specific leads and/or give you access to the entire database.
- Once you find a story or journalist that meets your coverage needs, you will be able to contact the journalist directly.
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