Open Media Boston Editors Go Volunteer, Seek Paid Freelance News Reporters
Over dinner last night, Open Media Boston associate editor Jonny Adams and I celebrated the end of an era. As of today, both of us have moved on to other jobs and will run OMB on a volunteer basis for at least the rest of the year.
This is not the first time that OMB has been volunteer driven. In fact, this publication ran that way for over a year after launching in 2008. And we were only able to begin consistently paying our news reporters by the article in 2012. Jonny's run as our second full time paid editorial staffer lasted just seven months between January and yesterday. An experiment that we believe worked quite well and that resulted in a significant increase in the number of weekly news articles we were able to publish. But more funds were required to keep a two-person shop going for another year, and we have not yet found such funds.
Meanwhile, OMB's main funder informed us a few weeks ago that they were reassessing their grantmaking strategy from top to bottom over the next few months and can't guarantee that we'll be invited to apply for their next cycle. We maintain a strong relationship with them, and owe them a thousand thanks for their bankrolling a good chunk of our budget since 2009. Few non-profit online news publications of our size have had the benefit of such support, and we have absolutely not taken it for granted. Still the loss of over half of our operating budget meant that we were going to have to lay ourselves off by this month.
Yet we knew from the beginning of our relationship with them that they would not be able to fund our desired expansion to a larger news operation - or fund us indefinitely. So none of this was a surprise. This is the plight of both non-profit and for-profit news operations in 21st century America ... no one knows how to properly fund news outlets that are trying to produce critical public interest journalism in the age of the internet. People know how to run "advertisers" and how to sell their outlets out to corporations who are looking to get cheap uncritical PR out to key markets. But not how to replace or restart the funding mechanisms that worked passably well for most of the 19th and 20th centuries.
For our part, OMB had launched a number of initiatives to jump start new funding streams over the years. But by May it was evident that we were not going to be able to meet our annual budget target in time for the start of our next fiscal year in July.
Long story short, Jonny just got a good "job job" and I just got hired as a professor.
All that said, we do have a Plan B in play. But we will not know whether we're going to be able to operationalize it until the beginning of next year or so.
For now, we're going to keep publishing OMB as volunteers. And we're going to keep paying $50 an article for news stories.
Our longtime senior reporter David Goodman is still cranking out articles month-to-month, but we need two to three new reporters to continue operating as a news weekly.
So we'd like to announce that we're accepting applications for up to three freelance news reporter positions starting today.
Applicants must have at least a Bachelor's degree in journalism or communications plus field reporting experience. If you don't have the appropriate educational background, but have lots and lots of published news clips to show us, then please apply anyway.
We run a professional news operation, and use standard Associated Press style. We specialize in the labor and non-profit beats in Boston and environs.
Our news reporters are expected to publish between one and four news articles per month. As freelancers, news reporters - like all other OMB talent - maintain all rights to their work, other than OMB's right to display it on our website and store it on our server.
Our editorial policy is left-of-center, and our staffers generally share the publication's politics. But we pride ourselves on fairness and accuracy in our news reportage and are only interested in talking to applicants who agree with our mission to produce solid journalism in the broad public interest.
If this sounds like a good fit to you, then we cordially invite you to apply for one of our news reporter positions.
Otherwise, if you're a regular viewer and/or the leader of a progressive union or non-profit that we covered over the past six plus years, and you'd like to help us raise more funds, drop us a line at info [at] openmediaboston [dot] org. We'd love to chat.
Thanks to everyone who has supported us since 2008. Know that we're working hard to keep bringing you news from the Boston area grassroots.
Jason Pramas is Editor/Publisher of Open Media Boston, and Assistant Professor of Communications at Lesley University in Cambridge