Investing in people

Quite a few participants drew attention to an aspect sometimes neglected by donors in the media development sector: the journalists themselves.

One interesting theme to come out of the discussion, correlated with investments in organisational capacity, was the issue of mental health. A number of participants drew attention to the reality of mental health problems and "burn out" among journalists and editors.

Sharon Moshavi (ICFJ) suggested that networking and peer-to-peer sharing could help with mental health issues after the period of extended solitude that many journalists were exposed to throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tracie Powell, (Pivot Fund) proposed that donors consider funding to give journalists a break or finance temporary replacements for those in need of a sabbatical.

For Duc Luu (Director of Sustainability Initiatives/Journalism, Knight Foundation), systemic problems in the media industry – namely financial precarity and limited job prospects -- as the source of the problem.

What leads to burnout is that there's been a 25-year bear market in journalism, and the expectations that people have for journalism … literally a generation has grown up with people telling them that this industry is dying, and that you cannot make a career in it. - Duc Luu, Knight Foundation

The root causes of burn-out can only be resolved by addressing these structural issues in the media industry, added Luu. Media owners and funders need to work together toward transforming the media ecosystem in a way that improves the employment opportunities and working conditions of journalists.

Moshavi added that donors and funders could also draw inspiration from Silicon Valley’s culture of investing in serial entrepreneurs – a culture that allows for “failure and second chances” – when investing in the media.

Jan Lubinski from the Deutsche Welle Akademie spoke about the “political advocacy” aspect of the conversation, stressing the importance of giving journalists the tools, time, and resources to actively lobby for structural changes in the media ecosystem.

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