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Hostwriter’s Bernadette Geyer on how to start your collaborative reporting project
Cross-border journalism is a method of many perks. Journalists who include perspectives from other countries in their investigation open up new connections and maximise their story’s reach — often without the need to travel to every location themselves.
While setting up collaborations with colleagues abroad is not a method reserved only for major media outlets, it is not an easy task to do on your own. Aside from being aware of unwritten rules, organisational and intercultural skills are also required.
This is why we talked with Bernadette Geyer from Hostwriter, the non-profit collaborative platform that connects journalists worldwide. Here are her essential tips for journalists looking to start a cross-border project that she shared with us:
We see cross-border journalism as a tool to overcome national bias and prejudice, ultimately contributing toward better informed, more accountable and democratic societies.
One of the strengths of the cross-border journalism method is that it can change the practice of journalism from competition to collaboration. This will result in more stories being published about underreported regions and topics, greater diversity in voices represented in journalism, less bias in news and improved trust in journalism.
Talk with another journalist in the remote country to discuss your story idea. They might be able to help you see if you have missed any important aspects in your idea or to recommend specific people that you could interview.
They might even be interested in collaborating with you on the story, in cases where you might not know the language and need a reporter who can understand and translate information for you.
Actually, there are a lot of unwritten rules to be considered. First and foremost is the idea that in a cross-border collaboration, the journalists are all equal partners. Journalists involved need to establish a code of ethics they will follow. This may change depending on the regions involved in the story.
Members of the research team will need to put together their own rules regarding the budget, the allocation of resources, and other such considerations.
Another major unwritten rule is: don’t steal other journalists’ stories!
1. Meet your collaborators at eye level. Reporters from different regions will also bring different viewpoints and practices based on their experience. Respect that resolving differences is part of the collaboration process.
2. When putting together your team, make sure everyone is on-board with and excited about the story. It will make it much easier for team members to fulfil their responsibilities and meet deadlines.
3. Put together a research plan at the start, including a budget, division of tasks, and benchmarks. Considering publications that will be targeted for the story should also be part of the planning stage.
Journalism practices in different countries can be influenced by factors such as the political environment and historical industry traditions. Journalists tend to forget that what is considered a standard reporting procedure in one country may be very different in another.