Credit: Courtesy of Kyiv independent (above), in an editorial meeting in November 2021

Ukraine’s Kyiv Independent has only existed for a few months – created by a group of journalists who were fired from the Kyiv Post amid attempts to undermine its independence. Now it is running a 24/7 operation to cover the war.

It was when the president of the EU Commission quoted one of their editorials that the team realised they had achieved their goal of being the "global voice of Ukraine", CEO Daryna Shevchenko says, speaking on the podcast.

As well as becoming a key source for news organisations and audiences around the world, the team is providing life-saving service journalism by keeping residents updated on air raid alerts, where to find food and shelter, and other information people need during war.

This has brought with it huge logistical challenges, also faced by other Ukrainian media, which have necessitated adaptation in both ways of working and the tools used, as well as major fundraising efforts.

Taking each day as it comes

From the first day of Russia’s invasion, the Kyiv Independent switched to a 24/7 news operation, with its journalists, most of them still based in Ukraine, balancing their work with navigating the daily reality of war,

"Our planning horizon is now one day. We just figure out each day how much time people can, want to, or are capable of, working," Shevchenko says. As CEO, her own role has shifted and she is now working in the editorial team because "we don’t need more budget charts, it’s all about the journalism right now".

"Everybody is scared, everybody is angry, everybody is very motivated to do their job right now," she adds.

The team is being supported by volunteer editors who can help ensure articles go out as quickly as possible while maintaining a high standard, volunteer designers, and volunteers who help run the publication’s Telegram channel.


Kyiv Independent on Telegram

Encrypted messaging platform Telegram has become an important channel for the publication, which it only began using the platform on the first day of the war. It gained 40,000 followers in just over a week, and at the time of writing, it was close to the 50,000 mark.

CFO Jakub Parusinski pays tribute to the team of developers who have kept the website online, but says that Telegram is an important alternative way to reach people with breaking news, to help relieve the website from the current surge in traffic as well as from possible cyber attacks and phishing attempts.

The platform is much more widely used in eastern Europe than the west, citing the example of the Belarusian revolution when the government completely shut down the internet, leaving Telegram as the only channel still functioning.

Financial support

It is not only the internet that could be cut off. With supply routes also threatened by the invasion, getting equipment to the journalists on the ground while this is possible is urgent.

Parusinski has set up two crowdfunding campaigns, one for the Kyiv Independent (which also has a Patreon allowing people to make regular membership payments) and one to support a larger group of Ukrainian media, set up in collaboration with The Fix, Are We Europe, Jnomics and Media Development Foundation along with additional media partners across Europe. These campaigns have raised in excess of £1.3m and £860k, respectively.

It means that Parusinski can send immediate payments to media who need it, to help with buying emergency equipment, insurances, or relocation costs, for example. In the event of problems with the Ukrainian banking system, this money may be the main source of funds available to the affected media.

“The donor community is stepping up at a pace and a scale that I have never seen, [...] but our goal was to have resources to be able to support media immediately.

“In this kind of situation hours matter, sometimes minutes,” he says.

The campaign also offers logistical help, for example with grant managers helping Ukrainian media apply for donor funding so that journalists can focus on their vital coverage.

Shevchenko and Parusinski both emphasise the fact that journalists are on the front line, particularly in a war where disinformation has been weaponised.

“[The war effort] is a national mobilisation, and the media plays a huge role in that,” says Parusinski.

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