Freelancers and crowdfunding

We all know how tough a career in journalism has become over the past few years. Newspapers are in poor shape, many magazines are struggling, and CBC has been hit with budget cut after budget cut. This week, J-Source took a close look at how all of this affects freelancers, with a post on the challenges faced by freelance investigative reporters.

In short: it’s getting even harder to get by. Writer Alison Motluk says she lost money on her investigative report on human egg donation for Maisonneuve — even though her research for the piece was subsidized by a CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) journalism grant.

And what the post didn’t say was that CIHR grants were discontinued earlier this month.

“Investigative journalism is time-consuming and expensive,” says Motluk in the J-Source post. “I worry about a society that’s not willing to pay for it.”

It certainly is worrying. But freelancers are trying out new ways to fund their investigative reports. Crowdfunding is one that’s seeing some action this year.

British freelance journalist Emilie Filou, for example, is attempting to raise £4500 for a trip to Madagascar. She’s planning to spend three weeks there researching stories on topics ranging from conservation, to tourism, to socio-economics. When she returns, she plans to pitch the stories she gathered on her trip to a wide variety of media. She’s also looking at other ways of getting her stories out — by self-publishing, for example.

In a post on, Filou says “if it works, it will be an indication that there are people out there who are still interested in paying for journalism.”

So far, Filou has been pledged about half of her target amount. And she’s not the only journalist turning to crowdfunding for financial support.

A quick search turned up a dozen journalism projects that have been successfully funded via Kickstarter so far this year. There was also this story on Poynter on Wednesday about an Indiegogo-funded project to highlight longform journalism by women. Crowdfunded journalism projects are suddenly everywhere.

Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications is so sure that crowdfunding is a viable way to fund journalism that it’s offering a crowdfunding training course for young journalists this fall. The program offers monetary awards in addition to training, and is being run in partnership with Kickstarter themselves.

The webpage for the Newhouse program refers to applicants as “student entrepreneurs.” It seems like the right label. As the publishing industry continues to evolve, it’s clear that an entrepreneurial mindset is essential for anyone considering a career in freelance writing.


Got a hot topic you’d like to investigate? Would you consider trying to crowdfund it?


Posted on August 23, 2013 at 9:05 am by Rachel · · Tagged with: , ,

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