Barriers to cross-border collaborations fall for good

The barriers that prevented collaboration between newsrooms across the globe have been crumbling for years. In 2022, they’ll fall for good.

Many newsrooms used to consider global collaborations, and even regional ones, to be logistical nightmares that required huge investments for uncertain returns, better left to the big national publications. But the pandemic forced editors and publishers to rethink the logistics of newsgathering and in the process lowered their reticence to work with others.

Technology has played a part. As much as we dread the now ubiquitous Zoom calls, they have become instrumental in demystifying collaborative work. A simple invite can bring together an entire team across multiple time zones, while messaging and free project management apps can keep the project on track until completion.

Improved processes have gone hand in hand with a change in mentality: Covering a story so big that it directly affects every human on the planet has also helped newsrooms realize that there are stories that can be global in scope, but remain relevant to their local audience. In 2022, the increasing number of successful projects being published will entice more organizations to extend their hand to others and ask “What else can we do together?”

As Stefanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, noted in a recent article, there’s a growing ecosystem of journalism collaboration, with Europe and Latin America leading the way, supported by organizations like the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Solutions Journalism Network, and the Global Investigative Journalism Network, among others. Projects that have been born out of those networks, like the Pandora Papers, will serve as a blueprint for others to attempt their own.

In addition to improving the depth and scope of their coverage, an increase in cross-border collaborations will continue to redefine the relationship between Western newsrooms and their counterparts in other parts of the world. By working side by side with local journalists as equal partners, not as assistants or fixers, newsrooms can finally put to rest the practice of “parachute journalism” and build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships, particularly around topics like migration, climate change, and diaspora communities.

The success of these new initiatives will require further transformations inside news organizations. Leadership must invest in employees with the language, logistical, and cultural skills needed to work with a wide variety of partners, which has to go hand in hand with their DEI efforts. Some changes to the internal culture will be needed as well to accommodate for new workflows and other demands of collaborative work.

The pandemic gave added momentum to cross-border collaboration, but it won’t be the last story to have a global impact. Newsrooms need to continue to build bridges between them to match the size and complexity of the challenges they’ll report on.

Wilson Liévano is the managing editor of The GroundTruth Project, home of Report for the World.

Leave a Reply