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Cross-border reporting in crisis: More partnerships and cooperation needed, not less

New tools to connect with partners across the globe

Cross-border cooperation took on a new dimension after COVID-19 closed off global travel. With many correspondents unable to travel, news media have had to depend on local partnerships for much of their reporting. 

The good news is that there are more and more solutions to facilitate such forms of cooperation. But many media managers are uncomfortable reaching outside their networks and working with a more diverse set of voices. 

The fourth session of #MediaRevolution looked at different aspects of cross-border reporting and how media organizations can adapt. Here are some of the key insights from the discussions. 

Tina Lee, Hostwriter. “Hostwriter: launch of the cross-border newsroom”:

  • Hostwriter is an open network connecting over 5,700 journalists from 154 countries. It helps reporters work on joint projects, provide training or mentoring and even find a place to crash. 
  • The idea behind the platform is to raise the quality of news coverage by connecting reporters across all career levels and locations and giving voices to the voiceless.
  • Hostwriter supports journalists who face barriers based on their race, gender or ethnicity in their professional life. It also connects those unable to cross the globe by themselves for economic or other reasons.
  • The network is currently working to set up an international newsroom providing journalists across the world an opportunity to work together on stories that are often deprioritized by major market players.  
  • Fact checking is often seen as the biggest challenge for cross-border cooperation. Newsroom diversity can make a difference: having colleagues from different countries around can help editors make sense of any data faster and more effectively.

Jakub Gornicki, Outriders. “Behind the scenes of the Outriders“:

  • Outriders depend on cross-border cooperation in their work and have been able to carry out multiple multimedia projects with colleagues in different countries, using Hostwriter network in particular. 
  • As soon as you stop thinking in the paradigm that a story is a text – you’ll see much more opportunities. [Outriders experiment with storytelling and rarely use standard media formats]. But finding the right people will also be more challenging. Cross-border networks have been a great help in that sense.
  • For example, a story about the Turkish offensive against the Kurds in Syria was based on WhatsApp conversations with a local reporter. “We actually used the chat messages to tell the story”.
  • Filming dangerous events can be a challenge. Especially, flash points like war or mass riots. So Outriders found a solution – creating animated comics to visualize the story. One example is a story about COVID-19 response in Brazil’s favelas. This comic has been translated into four languages which made stories more accessible for different audiences.
  • Journalists can also use a game-based approach to raise readers’ awareness about specific topics. For example, Outriders’ “The Positive Rate” interactive game allows users to go through the process of trying to get tested for coronavirus. 

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Henrik Grunnet, Gohar Khodjayan, Media Bridge (IMS). “Media Bridge: bringing necessary stories to the public eye”:

  • Media Bridge is a platform for cross-border collaboration for journalists from different parts of the world, including hard-to-reach areas. The project helps local publishers bring news stories to international audiences, get additional reporting resources from established newsrooms and find reporting partners or fixers across the globe.
  • The project is in beta-testing and looking to expand partnerships with local newsrooms (especially from the Global South), European newsrooms looking for partners from inaccessible regions and international donors willing to invest in important, high-quality content.
  • The platform will allow collaborating newsrooms to communicate through encrypted chats, make assignments, get pitches and even make payments. The latter function is still under development.
  • Media Bridge works with trusted editors in different regions that verify the credibility of the media partners and ensure the quality of the content.

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Open discussion: Making cross-border cooperation in times of crisis work

Jakub Gornicki: 

  • Media have to build friendly relationships with other journalists and rely on them in the future. We use social media of potential project hires to check their credibility. Having at least 1 or 2 thousand followers indicates this reporter cares about their audience and has enough contacts to do the job. 
  • Work with people in a non-article way and don’t start from pricing for content. This way journalists are more in a learning mindset and gradually improve the quality of their writing.

Tina Lee: 

  • We often expect fraud and unprofessionalism from international colleagues, but be conscious of people on your own team. There are as many risks in getting inaccurate stories if you know a person as if you don’t.
  • We need more cooperation, not less. Use both social media and cross-border networks to find partners because different stories need different people to work on them. But cross-border networks are just one of many tools.
  • Find new ways to tell stories no one has heard, and ask yourself why they are important to be told.

Henrik Grunnet:

  • If you are new to the concept of cross-border cooperation, starting with a project like Media Bridge is a good first step. The platform evaluates corporations based on assessments of both parties and ensures the credibility of the partners involved.
  • If you have a story idea – write a pitch and post it on Media Bridge. There are even pitching tutorials and templates available on the platform. 

Gohar Khodjayan: 

  • Build trusting relationships with your potential partners. Try to check their previous experience and ask if they have access to sources on particular topics.

Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash

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