League of fantastic journalists
Project for support and collaboration of independent Russian-speaking investigative journalists in regional Russia and CIS countries

Author: media project "The Fourth Sector"
The essence of the project
Project mission
  • development and support of quality journalism in regional Russia and CIS countries,
  • forming a solid mosaic of problems, challenges and trends,
  • the formation of strategic alliances of journalists, media projects, non-profit organizations and initiatives
What does the project include?
  • portfolio of investigative journalists from Russian regions and CIS countries;
  • applied knowledge base and deadline calendar for investigative journalists;
  • couch surfing service for journalists;
  • pro-bono experts вase;
  • service of collecting donations for media projects;
  • а number of "extensions": space for communication, blog, tape of vacancies, educational online projects.
Target Audience (TA)
The main target audience - Russian-speaking journalists:
  • freelancers or employees of independent media (uncontrollable by the government or any political party),
  • maintaining a high level of quality in unfriendly, difficult circumstances (lack of money and time, censorship restrictions, personal risks),
  • working or wishing to work with complex themes and genres (investigative and research journalism, analytics, data journalism, special report)

Also the audiences are: media editors, non-profit organizations, donators.
      What does the project give TA
      For journalists:
      • free access to the knowledge base;
      • expanding the range of opportunities (searching for colleagues for implementation of interregional and cross-border projects, increasing the chances of being published in federal, international, foreign media or receiving a grant; the ability to exchange information and contacts);
      • belonging to a community ("I am not alone", belonging to a community as a sign of quality, support in the most diverse meanings of this word);
      • access to a platform that provides alternative sources of funding (collecting donations for media projects);
      • critical support.

      For editors: looking for high-quality journalists in a particular territory to engage them as a performer for different tasks.

      For NGOs: access to a database of journalists working with complex themes and genres, the ability to create strategic alliances.

      For donators: the opportunity to invest in a network of journalists (cost optimization, increasing coverage, access to "proven" performers).

      We focus on journalists from regional Russia, but we also consider that it is important to make the project accessible to Russian-speaking journalists from CIS countries (regardless of the localization), since they face similar problems and challenges.
      Justification of relevance
      We know for sure: quality regional journalism exists in Russia. In our list of "fantastic journalists of non-capital Russia" for 2018 (compiled from the materials of Redkollegia award) there are almost six dozen names from almost two dozen regions. Of course, this list is not exhaustive.

      These regional journalists continue to work in their native cities and, despite all the difficulties, maintain a high standard of journalistic masterhood. They honestly and professionally write on complicated topics, publishe in regional and federal media. Their main motivation is not money. "This is our drive, we enjoy life and feel its meaning such way," they say.
      The main problems of regional investigators:
      - lack of time (70%),
      - access to information (67%),
      - insufficient remuneration (52%),
      - burnout, a sense of futility of their work (37%),
      - censorship restrictions (30%),
      - lack of knowledge and skills (30%),
      - insufficient technical equipment (30%),
      - threats to personal safety (18%)
      according to a poll among regional investigators,
      conducted by media project "The Fourth Sector" in October 2018
      At the same time, many journalists want to go beyond what they are doing now and work in complex genres. More than 700 applications from journalists and activists from Russia and former Soviet Union countries were submitted to the investigative journalists's "Access Point" school conducted by initiative group of journalists in Perm in 2017. Many of them pointed out that they were fed up with copy-paste journalism, and want to do something worthwhile.

      In addition, we see that in media environment there is a slow, but nevertheless, elimination of the monopoly of "two capitals" (in Russia) and the state (in CIS countries). It manifests itself in more active cooperation of federal media with regional journalists, and in the creation of independent (including non-commercial) media projects. Examples: interregional project 7X7, The Fourth Sector in Perm, Freedom Square in Kazan, Hook.report in Uzbekistan, Kloop in Kyrgyzstan.
      Our project is designed to support journalists in regions of Russia and CIS countries through educational projects, interaction and exchange of experience, creation of alternative sources of funding and unification of different projects.
      Basic elements of the project
      The basis of the platform on which in the future it will be possible to build on various additional elements.
      Portfolio base
      It is also a large-scale census of Russian-speaking investigators of non-capital Russia and CIS countries. It is also the basis of the platform, which lay the foundation of the resource's architecture and its future functionality.

      Essence: 1) the user of the resource fills profile, 2) after checking, he or she gets access to the platform elements and closed communication channels, 3) if desired, he or she publishes the profile in public access.
      Knowledge base
      A database of information useful for investigative journalists, including structured list of tools and databases, instructions for their use, and a library.

      The section will be created on the basis of existing TollBox of "The Fourth Sector" and the library of Press Development Institute - Siberia. Information will be restructured, accumulated, supplemented by the possibility of an advanced search with filters.
      Deadline calendar
      A calendar that tracks the deadlines for submitting applications to competition, grants and scholarship programs for journalists working with complex genres.

      Now such a calendar is created on the basis of "The Fourth Sector" through integration with Google calendar, but it also needs to be improved. For example, adding the ability to subscribe for automatic notifications on the upcoming deadline.
      Journalistic couchsurfing service
      Service for finding free shelter with journalists living in other cities and countries willing to shelter for free while traveling to another city or country.

      Creating a service does not require additional costs. It is based on the database of profiles as an additional option.
      Estimated Add-ons
      Difficult elements, "projects in a project" (require separate detail and separate serious funding)
      Pro-bono Expert Base
      Pro-bono experts, to whom journalists can adress for comments and explanations in various fields of knowledge.

      Today there is a similar project - PressFeed experts base, but only large companies are able to pay money for using the service. Investigators usually need another experts.

      There is also a base of experts of "Tak-tak-tak" foundation, but it consists mainly of lawyers, while journalists need experts from a wide variety - from geological exploration to forensic investigation.
      Before people start adding themselves to the database (for self-promotion, PR of their organization or self-realization), you need to create a serious "groundwork" for experts, that is, make considerable efforts to involve them in the project. When the base is large enough to be interesting for journalists, other experts will be able to see their "profit". Thus, financing is required not only for the creation of a base, but also for its promotion and formation.
      The service of collecting donations for media projects
      The service, through which any journalist or group of journalists will be able to collect donations for their investigative and research media projects, complex cycles.

      The authors set the name and description of the project, choose the approach of fundraising (patronage, one-time donations, crowdfunding). After moderation, a project page appears on the resource, where there are name, description, amount of money raised, donor list are displayed, and project news are posted.
      The most expensive service. Its creation will require the development of an educational base (online marathon, video lectures, step-by-step instructions) and preliminary piloting (based on a platform like Planeta.ru or using the Leika service). It is important to understand and take into account when designing the Service and to ensure the potential success of it.
      External extensions
      Using the existing services to achieve the goals and objectives of the project
      Communication space
      The possibility of communication within the platform is not required. This is something that sooner or later will relocate to messengers and social networks. Therefore, Communication should be through the usual communication channels - closed and open.

      Closed channels: alarm-chat in Telegram (for situations when sombody need help), facebook group (for internal communication), channel in Slack (for time-limited chat sessions). Open: thematic newsletter by e-mail, feedback form on the website and in the blog.
      Thematic open blog, which will contain instructions about using databases and services, translations of articles, short interviews with investigators from Russian regions and CIS countries, the "rules of journalistic life", analysis of investigative publications.

      Today, "The Fourth Sector" has created such a blog on Medium. It can be converted into a League's blog with giving access to writing articles to different authors.
      Online Courses
      At the current stage, there is no need to plan this service as an internal component of the platform. For the implementation of educational projects, we can use existing platforms like Stepik, the possibility of closed Facebook and Vkontakte groups, the possibility of online streaming on Youtube.
      Tape of vacancies
      Specific tape of vacancies for investigative journalists. The goal is to help investigative journalists. Mandatory requirements for vacancies: part-time employment, remote work, flextime.

      It is assumed that this will not be a base with internal details and the ability to respond, but a tape of relevant vacancies with links to external resources where these vacancies are directly posted.
      Request Service
      Relevant for freelancers who do not cooperate with any specific media.

      Now a similar service is implemented by Team 29. If this is a stable working service, there is no need to create our own, it is enough to integrate an existing one into the platform.
      Creating basic platform elements
      At this stage it is supposed:
      1) clarification of the technical design specification through consultation with target audience and programmer,
      2) platform development (design and programming),
      3) testing the platform and making corrections.
      Promotion. Forming a database of profiles
      At this stage:
      1) promotion of the platform (through targeted advertising, communication channels and the distribution base of "The Fourth Sector" and partner organizations, placement of information in thematic public pages in social networks and channels)
      2) accepting and moderating journalists 'applications and directly forming a database of journalists' profiles.
      Search for funds for further project implementation
      At this stage, further movement is expected: creation the technical specifications of other platform elements, search for funds, implementation, testing, promotion. This stage will be divided into smaller stages as you progress.
      Potential partners
      Main operator: media project "The Fourth Sector"
      Registered as media in December 2017. It acts as an independent non-profit group of journalists working in complex genres and with complex topics.

      Potential partners
      - non-profit partnership Press Development Institute - Siberia
      - foundation for promoting the development of mass communications and legal education Tak, tak, tak
      - Muckrakers Russia investigative journalism support group
      (preliminary negotiations on joint work on the project have been held with the listed organizations)

      We also intend to involve multimedia experience laboratory SilaMedia, the social educational project Growing House of Social Technologies, the crowdfunding platform Planeta.ru as consultants and experts.
      Answer to possible questions
      - Why the "League of Fantastic Journalists"?
      - Firstly, because we sincerely believe: investigative journalists from the regions of Russia and CIS countries are fantastic, incredible. They keep high professional level in difficult conditions.

      Secondly, the title contains sad self-irony: just few people believe in honest, deep, professional regional journalists (and they, however, are).

      Thirdly, the name touches - we checked.

      Fourthly, the wording "fantastic journalists" is already known to many regionals thanks to our list, it will help in promotion.
      - How much money do you need for all this?
      - We calculated the budget (in particular, we consulted with the programmer about the cost of developing various elements of the platform), we have a general idea of its size in the minimum-maximum range, and we are ready to discuss it individually.
      - How much time is required for the project?
      - According to our calculations, the creation and promotion of the basic elements of the platform will take about 3 months and a month to roll back the communication channels.

      The creation of "add-ons" will take significantly more time. Thus, the creation of experts' base, including the formation of a "backlog" and the promotion of the service, will take about a year. Creating a service for collecting donations, including pilot testing and the creation of educational materials - one and half year.