Knight Challenge – Report Me

 

Project Title: 10 words

Report Me – A worldwide online network for publications and journalists

Requested Amount

$3,000

 

Expected Amount of time to Complete Project

6 months – 1 year

 

Describe your Project: 500 words

A network for publications to easily find journalists based on location, topic, and expertise to find information and report on an up and coming story.

A thought experiment. You’re an editor at a New York- based sports magazine. You know that the next Olympics are coming up in Rio de Janeiro, and you’ve heard some rumors about pollution in the manmade lakes and pools they’ll be using for rowing, kayaking and the triathlon. You think that’d make a great story. But your publication is small, and doesn’t have enough money to send a staff writer all the way to Rio. You know a freelancer or two in Rio, but they don’t really write environmental stories. What do you do?

For the Knight Challenge, our group proposes an online network that could solve this dilemma. At Report Me, editors can find environmental and/or public health journalists, and vice-versa, to report on stories beyond the financial or logistical means of publications. Essentially, our site is a Linkedin for journalists. Free of charge, journalists can create a profile on the site. Their profile contains all the usual stuff: employment history, education, contact info, awards. But the user can also list their areas of expertise, clips, the types of media they work in, and their payment rates. So you, the theoretical editor, could go on our website, and by punching in a few keywords, find “John Doe, 35, freelance reporter and photographer based in Rio de Janeiro, specializing in environmental news, fifty cents a word,” and contact him. After John Doe writes the article, the publication can then rate him.

Our site would be financially viable in two ways. Like any social media, it could have paid ads. Then, although it would be free of charge to create an account, journalists and publications could pay a fee to receive premium services, including notifications for assignments and in-site messaging.

As publications become increasingly cash-strapped, but the demand for global reportage increases, local freelancers — people who know an area and a beat and can turn stories around quickly — are the future. At Report Me, we’ll give those freelancers a space to advertise their services, and publications a place to find them, facilitating locally-sourced, high-quality, up-to-date reporting on any issue.

 

What unmet need does your product meet? 200 words

Publications are becoming increasingly cash-strapped, but the demand for global reportage is increasing. Local freelancers — people who know an area and a beat and can turn stories around quickly — are the future.  Publications struggle with not having enough money to send someone out to a far away location, and may not have anyone on staff to know an area or topic well enough. There are also no services currently that connect journalists to publications. However, there does not seem to be a service that connects journalists to publications.

 

Interview four potential users of your product about this unmet need. Do not tell them about your idea. Just explore their need. What did you learn? Include names and contact info for interviewees and a few words describing each — age, gender, occupation, town where of residence. Go for variety. 200 words

Sam Gringlas, 22 year old student journalist who specializes in environmental reporting from Ann Arbor Michigan, discussed the difficulties of starting out as a journalist. He is able to write for small publications where he already knows an editor and has a working relationship with them, but finds it hard to pitch to bigger publications where he doesn’t know anyone. He’d like to get to a point where his credentials and clips get his pitches noticed, but that’s difficult to do without writing for larger publications in the first place.

Suzanne Koven, a 58 year old freelancer specializing in medical journalism in Boston, discussed the tricky guessing-game she must play when pitching to publications. She might have a good idea for a story. However, she doesn’t  always know if the publication she’s pitching to is a good fit, or if the editor she contacts is on the same wavelength as her. Therefore, she sometimes spends a lot of time pitching to or negotiating with an editor only to find that they don’t

Neeral Desai, nedesai@umich.edu A 21 year old computer science major at the University of Michigan talked about the logistics of developing a program like this. He says if we were able to hire programmers highly experienced in API (application program interface), it would not take that long to develop this website.  He says a program like LinkedIn for journalists is a good idea.

 

How big is the potential market for your idea? Mention sources for any statistics you use. 100 words

Both publications and journalists are potential markets for our idea. Publications struggle with not having enough money to send someone out to a far away location, and may not have anyone on staff to know an area or topic well enough. Journalists need jobs.

 

How is your idea innovative — new or different from something already existing? Name your closest competitors – 200 words

There is HelpAReporter.com that connects sources to journalists and publications, and there is MediaBistro that lists job openings. However, there does not seem to be a service that connects journalists to publications.

There are ways journalists are connecting to other journalists. There is LinkedIn but this network is not specific to journalism and would not have the journalism-specific labels and categories that you would find on Report Me. There are some journalist associations, Facebook groups, weekly Twitter chats with a specific hashtag for certain subgroups of reporters, and slack.com. Report Me could do things that the mentioned groups do – connect reporters and editors – but not in one single space.

 

How will your idea be financially sustainable? 150 words

Basic membership will be free, with premium upgrade membership to access special features of the program. Basic access would allow journalists and publications to feature a few key portfolio pieces, as well as a simple biography. Basic membership would also allow both parties to contact each other through a messaging system and to leave comments or reviews if they have worked with each other. With a paid upgrade, journalists and publications may be able to feature more of their past work, and appear in higher priority for relevant searches.

Targeted sidebar advertising would help buffer the website’s financial security.

 

Why are you and your team the right people to develop this project?  100 words

Our team is comprised of members that have used services similar to Report Me, but for different uses. For example, one of our team members is part of a service that connects models, photographers, and other workers related to the photography industry. The whole team has found services like LinkedIn and Uber very useful and efficient in networking and providing a service that is important to our professional and personal lives. We are also in a community where startups and entrepreneurship is heavily encouraged, and we would have the resources to embark on this project.

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6 Responses to “Knight Challenge – Report Me”

  1. I think this is an interesting idea, especially since the field of journalism seems to be going down; however, I noticed that you started out relating the whole idea to specifically environmental journalism, but by the halfway point it was only journalism in general. I think it would be good to keep the environmental theme going through the whole thing. You had mentioned that publication companies are becoming cash-strapped while the need for coverage is increasing. Maybe you could explain that a bit further, like how the rapid increases in environmental issues need to be covered so people know about them and how and why they should help.
    I also noticed in the unmet needs section, the last two sentences are saying the same thing, just an f.y.i.
    Otherwise, I think this would be cool to get started. Good luck!

    • Thank you for the feedback! You are dead on about the inconsistency with journalism in general and environmental journalism, in fact we didn’t realize that our project was supposed to be directed specifically towards environmental journalism until we were about to submit it. We will comb through the proposal to make sure it all matches for the final draft.
      I think you are also right about expanding on the part about publication companies, perhaps some well backed statistics will do the job.
      Thanks for the catch in the unmet needs section, presumably a slip from having multiple writers working on the same piece.

  2. This seems like a good way to respond to a clear problem in journalism today: the heightened demand for more global coverage and the simultaneous decrease in funds available to pursue that coverage. I think that Report Me could be a viable way to link journalists across the globe, and have a few recommendations that might better shape the app. First, one potential problem I see is that the best journalists and publications in the field will have little or lesser need for the app because they will already have well established global networks. So, the app will likely be marketed to budding journalists and freelancers. Some publications may wish to double check the quality of the work produced by users of Report Me, so you may want to consider including a sort of “learn about me” feature, that lets users read about journalists past work and experience. In addition, I think a cool extension of the app could include local citizens into the network, although this might be too much work. Often, the best photo and video footage of an event is taken by ordinary citizens who just happen to be in the right place at the right time. This might be too much of a tangential idea, but perhaps you could include a way for ordinary citizens to plug into the database with their footage to be used by journalists not in the immediate area. One great thing about your app is that financially it is very sustainable. Once the legwork for setting up the database is complete, Report Me would be self-sufficient with adds and user premiums. Finally, I noticed that you only included accounts of three people who were interviewed. Since the assignment asks for four, you may want to consider adding another voice.

    • Hi Anna,

      Thanks for your feedback! We’ll work on getting that fourth input for Report Me.

      That is something that we will think about regarding the realistic target audience for Report Me. We’re hoping that established publications also could use Report Me to access an even more reliable and better fitting journalist for a specific event. We really want to be able to avoid problems encountered with the reporting of the Flint water crisis, for example. Many locals felt that the big established news organizations didn’t know the area or the problem well enough, and that they were late in reporting about the problem. Hopefully established publications could use our service to catch leads and have well-informed reporters!

      I really love your “learn about me” feature – that is something we will definitely think about expanding on! Giving people an idea of a journalists’ past work is a great idea! Again, we really appreciate your feedback.

  3. Hi, Irene, Yumi, Giancarlo and Elizabeth. This is such an excellent idea that there are already several versions of it in existence. So, this proves there is a need for this kind of service. Your challenge is to be the service that gathers the biggest number of users. So, here are some of the sites you may want to explore:

    https://blink.la/

    http://www.dc4mf.org/en/content/hostwriter-connecting-journalists-worldwide-6704

    http://www.cjr.org/the_kicker/new_platform_to_connect_journa.php

    https://ijnet.org/en/blog/hackpack-connects-freelancers-fixers-and-editors-publish-independent-media-coverage

    http://journohub.co.uk/howitworks/journalists/

    http://www.freelancewriting.com/freelance-writing-jobs.php

    https://www.upwork.com/

    http://www.asja.org/find-a-writer/hire-a-writer.php

    So, think about how Report Me will be different and better than these existing platforms. Also, think about how you will market Report Me to gather a critical number of users. That is how your idea will be the one that lasts in this space.

    You might consider partnering with existing places where many journalists are gathered, such as maybe writer’s unions or freelancer’s unions.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Writers_Union

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/business/freelancers-union-tackles-concerns-of-independent-workers.html?hp&_r=1

    Again, good work so far on this. I look forward to seeing how this idea develops!

    • Thank you for the feedback, Emilia!

      We really appreciate you sending those links our way. We are thinking that our site will be different because there is a specific focus on environmental journalists. This service will be more specific than some of the other preexisting services.

      It is important to recognize that environmental and public health reporting often required sources who have local understanding an knowledge. We saw this problem when looking at some of the reporting that had been done following the Flint Water Crisis, where some reporters had no local understanding of the situation, and it made these sources less credible.

      We looked at a twitter field for a Broadly employee named Natasha Vargas-Cooper, and saw that she consistently seeks freelancers in different regions of the U.S. for various articles. Clearly, the preexisting services that may aid her in finding reporters are not very effective, since she is outsourcing on twitter. We believe that ReportMe will be more organized and specific to environmental journalists, so people like Natasha will no longer need to post via Twitter, but rather she may use ReportMe.

      Thanks again!

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