To help offset the pain of their suddenly jobless colleagues, a group of journalists has designed a website where donors can support those in the industry affected by the coronavirus. Within 24 hours, journalists had pledged $50,000.
Microloans for Journalists went live on Monday, and by mid-day Wednesday the site had verified $80,000 worth of pledges from current and past members in the news business, including retired reporters and media professors.
The site is designed to connect those in need of a loan, at 0% interest, with lenders who are willing to front the funds. All donors must be in the journalism industry to avoid conflicts of interest.
“We’ve all felt what it feels like to be in a newsroom where we’re seeing your colleagues either getting laid off or have the threat of getting laid off, and it’s a terrible thing,” said Robert Faturechi, a ProPublica reporter who covers money and politics.
Faturechi, along with fellow ProPublica reporters Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders as well as former colleague Sisi Wei (now director of programs at OpenNews), began talking last month about how they could support journalists experiencing financial hardship.
The site is designed to be a seamless way for those in media to connect with others who may be in need. “We’re creating an easy way to help if your instinct led you there anyway,” Wei said.
Beginning Friday, journalists in need of financial assistance who can provide proof of their employment status will be able to fill out a form on the website. Journalists who have agreed to lend money and whose occupation has been verified by the four-person team will be privately matched with those in need. The agreed-upon amount will be transferred via online platforms such as Venmo or PayPal.
“The shape of this is going to be modeled by literally the journalists interested in helping and who are going to sign up to get help,” Wei said. “We’ll take it from there.”
Other groups have also come together to benefit journalists affected by COVID-19, including a New York Times freelancer fund and a relief fund for female journalists started by the International Women’s Media Foundation.
The media industry is no stranger to layoffs, which haven’t stopped since the 2008 financial crisis. Since then, newsrooms in the U.S. have 25% fewer employees, according to Pew Research.
Adweek recently launched a new service, called MediaTogether, intended to connect those recently laid off or furloughed with potential employers in the media industry.