This Is What Happens When You Get 50 Freelance Reporters In One Room Working Together

Unpacking the first-ever meetup of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ)


I had a hunch that friends and colleagues in the Massachusetts media would embrace the idea of having a nonprofit story incubator. There aren't many local outlets that are willing to invest in long form features, or in multimedia reporting projects that take serious resources and time to develop. I’m aware of this from my personal experience, and from the first two months of planning for the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, during which I've met with freelancers of all stripes — from writers, data scientists, and researchers, to designers, illustrators, and photographers.

Until I got into the same room with them at the Future Boston Alliance and Press Pass TV headquarters in Roxbury this week though, and engaged with dozens of creatives and reporters, I had yet to see the network that we’re cultivating function in real life. Our simple goal for the first meetup was to introduce BINJ and explain our concept, and to bring together people who might ultimately team up to produce compelling content. In that short-term mission we succeeded; I’m thrilled to report that more than 50 heads stopped by our open house, and that some potential collaborators are already connecting about everything from immigration to transit.

We didn't dive into specific story pitches just yet. Right now BINJ is primarily working to secure initial funding and to set up organizational infrastructure, and will begin assigning stories in the fall. At the same time, seeds are already being planted. In one case, after a quick introduction at our meetup, two reporters who are interested in similar homeland security issues made plans to coordinate on FOIA requests though MuckRock, a powerful local resource whose team was on hand as well.

There will be many, many, many more BINJ get-togethers. And meetings. And parties. But before we start reporting and disseminating features to the world, we’re gathering as much relevant data from our network as possible. That includes some individual information, such as Twitter handles so that we can thrown down on a Thunderclap together, but we also hope to spur discussions around general topics, which we will ultimately sharpen into multilateral team efforts. For starters, we asked participants to share thoughts on “What Doesn't Get Enough Coverage In Greater Boston,” and here’s a snapshot of the areas that people said are tragically neglected …

Note: We’re pretty sure that whoever wrote “Tom Brady” did it as a joke, but it made us laugh out loud so we kept it

We also had a haiku competition, hilarious submissions to which we will use in an upcoming campaign, and began to crowdsource questions for a survey of area media makers (see below for how to help with that effort). In order to serve independent and community reporters around Greater Boston, we first need to understand the local journalism ecosystem better than anyone. BINJ is all about linking journos and small publishers with resources, and in order to do that, first we have to pick your brains.

The housekeeping part is never fun, I know. But once this house is in order, I am confident that BINJ can both succeed and also help to strengthen the existing infrastructure. Judging by the way things went at our first meetup, it looks like we are on our way.

HELP US: What Questions Do You Think Should Be On A Survey Of Freelancers?

(i.e., What issues do you like to report on? How much did you earn as a freelancer last year? What are your preferred mediums?)

Please tweet your specific question to us @BINJreports, and we’ll incorporate it in our upcoming Greater Boston freelancer survey …

UPDATE: Big thanks to Poynter for noting our first meetup …

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.