One of the great ironies in U.S. journalism is that transparency, contextualization, and self-reflection – all values often found in great reporting – have often been shunned by media executives when dealing with journalism itself.
For a field that prides itself on transparency, it’s somehow more difficult than pulling teeth to know exactly how diverse many newsrooms are. Despite all of the style guides and resources available, shifting the way newsrooms talk about race, gender, class, sexuality, and ability is still a nascent conversation (if a conversation at all) for many newsrooms. And when Black reporters challenge their newsroom by factually reporting on or talking about racism, they’re often met with (at best) a frustrating meandering response or (at worst) punished.
These problems are not new and they are not the only problems in journalism. But they are at the focal point of how U.S. journalism will shift and evolve in the next decade and beyond.
In the past, legacy journalism and media criticism outlets touched on these topics, but never centered them or singled them out as the conversation. Instead, they were a conversation. Not surprisingly, full-time media criticism and reporting roles have historically been limited to a very select group of people that often look a certain way.
There are a number of outlets actively trying to challenge the way journalism is practiced (we’ve worked with some of them). But in terms of outlets focused on media reporting and criticism, with identity and marginalization at the center of the discussion, The Objective is unique.
This month, somehow, The Objective is already two years old.
Since we started as a rough collection of blogs, media reporting, and media criticism, we’ve aspired to be a publication where early-career journalists (students or otherwise) can be publicly introspective. Where journalists of color can go to read more about how the field is and can shift forward, see themselves reflected in coverage, and challenge the way they perceive journalism should be done.
How has The Objective changed in the last two years?
The most dramatic shift is that we can pay our writers. We started as a volunteer collective, editing each other’s work either because we didn’t want to or couldn’t place our media reporting and criticism elsewhere.
Because of our readers, we can sustainably pay our writers between $200 and $600 per piece, with the goal of continuing to increase our contributor pay to levels consistent with the strenuous nature of freelance reporting. We are also still a primarily volunteer lead publication, so we have a ways to go in terms of ensuring our editors are paid and can continue to work sustainably (we often take breaks).
Everything we can do so far is because of our readers. When we started fundraising last year, we were lucky enough to access NewsMatch, a campaign that doubled any money we raised. But not only did we raise enough money to pay our contributors, but we also went above and beyond where I earnestly thought we could go: receiving around $25,000 in matched funds.
I am also very proud of the time, energy, and dollars our readers have put into ensuring we have the capacity and funding to publish and pay our contributors.
All of this funding has allowed us to set a bedrock for our future. In addition to covering our freelance budget in order to pay our contributors for 2022, this funding has helped us cover media liability insurance (which is expensive for a small publication), accounting, operational support, our website, and fees required to operate (all things Marlee Baldridge, who handles our operations, has worked on).
Our priority is ensuring our contributors can stay paid and that we can continue to sustainably publish. That means in the near future, paying our editors and increased pay for freelancers.
We’re looking to do that not just through reader funding, but grants and experimentation. Earlier this year we received our first major grant from Indiegraf’s IndieCapital program (Indiegraf will also be helping us with a number of other things). Moving forward, we’re also working with the News Revenue Hub and participating in the LION-GNI sustainability audit in order to improve how we raise money and structure our work.
But as a team, we also have big ambitions. We have a number of stories and projects planned for the rest of the year and I’m excited to share them when I can.
For now, if you support the work we’ve done in the past, we are counting on your support to keep writers paid and our future projects possible. You can support us here.
More importantly, if you share our goal of shifting the way journalism is practiced, whether you’re an entry-level journalist or a long-time manager, reach out to us. We’d love to talk about how we can organize together to continue to shift the field.