Q&A: Rachel Glickhouse on how collaboration expands climate reporting possibilities

Will Fischer
Center for Cooperative Media
7 min readJul 3


Rachel Glickhouse is the senior content partnerships manager at Grist, where she manages collaborations for the environmental news non-profit focused on climate solutions.

Glickhouse has shaped major collaborative projects at ProPublica like Electionland and Documenting Hate, as well as at The Covid Tracking Project and News Revenue Hub.

We caught up with Glickhouse to hear about her career in journalism and how she’s leading collaborative climate reporting projects at Grist.

WF: How did you get into journalism?

RG: I came about it in a pretty haphazard way. In college, I majored in Latin American studies and Spanish. I thought I was going to be a diplomat or work in international development. Then, I went to live in Brazil, and I started blogging. I was doing news analysis, interviewing people, and I started to get a taste for what journalism was like as an independent writer. People who follow Brazil in English-speaking circles started to follow my writing. That turned into my first journalism job, at the newsroom of a think-tank called Americas Society/Council of the Americas.

WF: Did your early journalism experience influence your interest in collaboration?

RG: Coming from the world of blogging, it’s a different animal that involves putting yourself out there. I often found myself trying to work with other people through guest posts or interviews. I was trying to create a community through that work. I also joined social media at the time it was pretty nascent. Because there was a smaller amount of people then, it had more of that ‘growing a community’ feel. I didn’t start with the ‘Capital J’ type journalism, which can be very competitive and narrow in the sense of what you’re trying to do. I always came from the place that journalism is a thing you do with and for other people. It shouldn’t just be an individual pursuit.

WF: What was the first big collaborative journalism project you worked on?

RG: While I was working as a reporter at Univision, I got picked to work on ProPublica’s Electionland project as a partner. After I worked on that and got a feel for what it was like, I eventually got hired at ProPublica to run one of their collaborative projects, and that’s how my work with collaborations got started. Documenting Hate was partially a result of Electionland’s success, as it showed that doing a type of project in that format could be successful, so they were able to get funding. I think what made me enjoy it so much was the possibility. When you’re only one team, you only have a certain amount of resources that you can use to get things done. With a big project where you can get dozens or even hundreds of people involved, the possibilities for the type of reporting you can do expand exponentially.

WF: What did you learn about collaborations at ProPublica?

RG: I was at ProPublica for almost four years, and I learned that collaborations require a lot of patience and organization, and a lot of really deliberate strategizing if you want them to be successful. It helps to have collaborations around a topic that people are very interested in, excited about, or feel is urgent. It tends to help in the process of recruiting folks to get on board and keep things moving. It’s also important to understand what you want to get out of the collaboration. Thinking about goals can help you organize the process of collaboration, move things forward, and get folks on board when they have a clear idea of what they want to do and what they want to get out of it.

Trust is so incredibly important in getting folks to come on board and stay on board. Some of that is trust in the organization, which I think ProPublica has a lot of. I also think earning trust on a personal level is just as important. I spend a lot of time working on relationship-building, which is actually one of the most important things you can do in collaborations, even if they are going to be shorter or just one-off. Not always talking about the project itself, but having conversations and getting to know people goes a long way in any collaboration.

WF: Now that you’re at Grist, how are you thinking about leading collaborations?

RG: I started at Grist in January to run their partnerships and collaborations. We think about it in four buckets. Syndication: We try to get our content re-published in other places, but we also source from other newsrooms. Co-publishing stories: When we have a story that is almost ready to go and would be useful for a specific audience, we work with at least one other newsroom to co-publish it and get it in front of a different audience. Sometimes people also come to us with that request. Co-reporting stories: We have reporting partnerships, where someone from our newsroom and another newsroom are working on each end to report and publish a story together. Special projects: These can take a lot of different shapes and forms, but they often involve multiple newsrooms, and we distribute specific datasets so newsrooms can do their own reporting.

WF: Is there anything about climate reporting that especially lends itself to collaboration?

RG: I get the impression that this field of journalism tends to be a little more collaborative, just because of the topic and crisis we’re facing. Folks are a little more open to working together. Climate Desk is a group of newsrooms that share stories that can be re-published among all of them. The Guardian is in there, Wired, a couple other legacy organizations — that goes to show the generosity that exists in this space, with folks willing to share their stories.

There is a lot of sharing going on. Internationally, there is so much that can be done. Covering Climate Now is global and tries to get people to work together. Some of our projects coming up have international possibilities, and that’s something I want to do more, since our climate crisis is global. There are so many ways we can connect the dots. But it always boils down to time and resources. My great hope is that we can do more international collaboration and more partnership work where we can translate stories in different languages.

WF: Which collaborative projects are you most excited about at Grist?

RG: We’re currently working on a data-driven investigation and will share data with newsrooms this summer to allow them to do their own reporting. Data is a great way to get people involved and interested. The wonderful thing about doing data collaborations is that you can hand over something that’s going to be useful to people, give them some context and training about how to use it, and then be able to do so much more with the data than you could do with a single newsroom alone. Having a huge dataset is great, and to make the most of it, you really need as many people as possible. I’ve worked on datasets that we’ve built through crowdsourcing, acquired through partnerships with organizations, or by collating and sourcing ourselves. With big datasets or records, people often think about projects like the Panama Papers, where they were sent documents and had to go through them to see what they could find. But a lot of the time it’s about going out and building it yourself.

WF: What have you learned working in collaborative journalism?

RG: In journalism, we tend to be very reactive, and everyone is so busy that things just kind of hurtle along at a breakneck pace. But with bigger, more time-consuming stories, or projects that get funding, it’s helpful to slow down and think about how collaborating might benefit the project. It might be thinking about what’s possible with more human resources, or partnering to get in front of different audiences, especially if you don’t have a lot of people from the type of audience you want to reach. We all need to think strategically about how to create the best journalism we can.

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Will Fischer is a journalist covering the intersection of technology and media. He’s worked for Business Insider and New York magazine, and conducted local news research for City Bureau. Follow Will on Twitter @willfisch15 or email him at willfisch15@gmail.com.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a primarily grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with operational and project funding from Montclair State University, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, NJ Civic Information Consortium, Rita Allen Foundation, Inasmuch Foundation and the Independence Public Media Foundation. For more information, visit centerforcooperativemedia.org.



Will Fischer
Center for Cooperative Media

I write about collaborative journalism and local media ecosystems. Follow me on Twitter @willfisch15 or email me at willfisch15@gmail.com.