Newsrooms have collaborated in ways big and small for more than a century, but the rate and variety of collaborations and their form have increased dramatically over the past decade as news organizations respond to declining resources and increased awareness of the depth and breadth of news and information needs of communities.
The work is getting more complicated with impact that stretches beyond geographies and any single audience group. The reality is that collaboration is increasingly necessary in doing the work of journalism. But no solution comes without its challenges. It’s only natural that what makes collaboration so powerful is often what makes it challenging: people. For us to gain from all the potential benefits of collaboration, we have to do the work of finding people with similar purpose, complementary values and compatible goals who possess the willingness to collaborate, to be open and invested in the relationship building and management of successful partnerships. Most important, we have to do the work of being good partners to others.
This guide is intended to speak to the work of finding, evaluating and committing to partnerships with new partners. It explores what a healthy, equitable and effective partnership with other news organizations or freelancers could look like for you and your organization.
This guide begins at the point where you are seeking partners. But before you actually do so, I respectfully request that you first take an inventory of yourself, your organization and your participating team and evaluate whether you are ready and able to be a good partner to others.
In this series of guides, Angilee Shah has put together an excellent resource, Building equity in journalism collaborations, which I urge you to review. The Collaborative Journalism Workbook contains guided questions that can help with the process of being ready to be a good partner. As a companion to this piece, Collaborative partnerships with non-news partners focuses on the particular aspects of partnering with people outside of newsrooms and how to create the right kind of process for the context you’re working in. It’s our hope that together these guides can help you navigate most kinds of partnership scenarios.
The sections of this guide are divided based on phases, but you can step into it wherever you find yourself already on the path. You may notice that some ideas repeat through the course of the guide. That’s because there are different cycles in regard to stakeholders and experimentation that apply to different parts of the roadmap, and where you join the path will determine how often you see these cycles appear.
The guide is the product of years of research into collaborative journalism as well as interviews with people doing incredible work in this space. As you go through the guide, one thing you may notice is that there are no direct quotes attributed to individuals. This is an intentional decision. As this guide is specific to the nuanced and complicated dynamics between people and politics between organizations, interviewees were not directly quoted to avoid inadvertently creating any misunderstandings in the current collaborative relationships in which those people are participating.
As we know, collaboration can sometimes be one of the more difficult topics to talk about constructively. Unlike other journalistic practices, we’re talking about what it means to work with one another in an increasingly small field. In the “About” section at the end, you will find information about the people who contributed their time and expertise to shape this guide and without whom it would be incomplete.