Recent days have been particularly tough on media companies as they’ve had to make difficult decisions because of decreased ad dollars and canceled events due to COVID-19. They’ve handed down pay cuts, changed 401K policies and, in the worst scenarios, furloughed and laid off employees.
To help offset the pain of their suddenly jobless colleagues, a group of journalists has designed a website where donors can pledge money to support those in the industry affected by the coronavirus. Within 24 hours, journalists had pledged $50,000.
Microsloans for Journalists went live on Monday, and by mid-day on Wednesday the site had verified $80,000 worth of pledges from current and past members of the journalism industry, including retired reporters and media professors.
The site is designed to connect those in need of a 0% interest loan due to the financial hardships caused by COVID-19 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 over email, with an expectation that they will provide the agreed amount 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 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 Media Together, intended to connect those recently laid off or furloughed in the media industry with potential employers.