While the financial landscape supporting international journalism has changed dramatically in recent decades, the necessity for global news has only grown stronger, said Farah Stockman, a New York Times reporter.
Stockman, the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, urged aspiring and working journalists to embrace this new financial model of fellowships instead of foreign bureaus during a presentation she gave on international journalism Sunday at the Excellence in Journalism Conference in New Orleans.
Stockman has witnessed the industry changes firsthand. While at the Boston Globe, she saw the eventual shuttering of all their foreign bureaus. She said when she started at the Globe they had seven bureaus. Newsroom leaders at the time blamed finances for the shift.
“Continuing to bear the expense of our foreign bureaus would have required us to reduce staffing by a dozen or so positions beyond those already announced,” said Martin Baron, the editor at the time. “We concluded that it would be unwise to meet the newsroom’s financial targets by making additional staff reductions.”
And it’s not just the Globe. McClatchy closed down its bureaus in 2015 due to a restructuring of their organization. The Tribune Company, now called tronc, closed and consolidated bureaus throughout the last decade for the main newspapers it owns, including The Baltimore Sun, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.
Newsrooms are also becoming less and less likely to send reporters abroad when events happen. In a different era, the Globe sent a large chunk of the newsroom including many journalists without international experience abroad to the Middle East after 9/11, Stockman said. She said news organizations simply lack the resources to afford doing something like that today.
“This is happening less and less because newspapers don’t have the money,” she said.
At the same time, international reporting has become more important than ever before, Stockman said, due to an increasingly interconnected world.
“All the biggest threats we face are international threats, yet we don’t really report on it very much,” Stockman said.
Yet, there is still a hope for international journalism to prosper, Stockman said, mainly through fellowships and grants reporters can get outside the newsroom — she urges every reporter to apply.
The new funding model for this work is increasingly split between who pays for and who publishes the journalism — with traditional outlets publishing the work while a range of nonprofits fund it through grants, fellowships and scholarships.
This shift from bureaus with reporters stationed in the region for a long-term period to more fellowships and special projects has changed the nature of what gets covered, Stockman said.
“Now, you’re like a guerrilla fighter,” she said. “You pick your battle, you go in and do a surgical strike, and you withdraw. You’re not going to stay there and hold the territory. And so now it’s about coming up with really great stories that have high impact even if you go to that place once and only write about the subject once.
“There’s a wealth of stories out there and nowadays no one is doing them. In a way it’s freeing, it’s liberating. As a freelancer you can do any story in the world and pitch it and a newspaper might be interested because they have no one out there.”
She previously won the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writing in 2014, which provided $75,000. For reporters interested in exploring fellowship and grant options, here are several programs Stockman highlighted:
- Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism’s Fund for Investigative Journalism
- up to $9,000 in support; October 1 deadline
- International Reporting Project
- provides travel to destination country plus a stipend
- Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s Persephone Miel Fellowship
- up to $5,000 in support; only non-U.S. reporters
- Reuters Institute’s Fellowship Program
- provides travel and stipend
- UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program
- $54,336 annual salary and up to $10,000 in support for approved travel
- Buzzfeed News/Columbia Journalism School’s Investigative Reporting Fellowships for Journalists of Color and Diverse Background
- $85,000 stipend, plus benefits and related expenses
- Abe Fellowship for Journalists
- $23,500 stipend and round-trip flight to Japan
- Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Travel Grants
- Stipend varies based on project, typically ranges from $2,000 to $10,000