From where to pitch to how to avoid being sued, and how much you should be getting paid for your work: a new, nine-part GIJN-resource covers the business side of doing investigative journalism. The guide covers a variety of subjects, aiming to help both individuals and media institutions by providing practical tips and advice.
There are no platforms designed specifically for journalists to sell investigative story ideas, but a few websites may prove useful. To find a publisher for an investigative idea, most reporters suggest alternative routes, such as doing research on possible outlets and making personal contacts. (See more about networking in the section on pitching stories.)
However, there are some websites that provide opportunities to pitch story ideas to a broad audience and to view publishers’ calls for contributions (though these are rarely on investigative topics). For freelance investigative reporters, a primary value of these job platforms is to find the gigs that pay the bills while pursuing bigger passions. There are dozens of job sites, so our list is surely incomplete.
For this week’s Friday 5, where GIJN rounds up key reads around the world, we found stories about freelancers commissioned to write for a massive Russian-backed disinformation campaign, how to (not) get your pitch read by an editor, and a guide for reporting on US elections.
Selling freelance investigative journalism proposals is a lot like selling other stories, but harder. There just aren’t enough media outlets willing to engage in watchdog reporting.
And pitching investigations which may have uncertain and controversial outcomes is especially challenging, requiring the establishment of mutual trust.
What’s more, the costs of doing time-consuming investigations can be high, while the compensation is inadequate. It’s hard to predict how much time and effort will be involved, making even a rough cost-benefit analysis only a wild guess. Then, lastly, there’s personal risk. Freelancers can face special challenges working on controversial stories, with legal and safety risks that media outlets won’t assume.
It’s hard to predict how much time and effort will be involved, making even a rough cost-benefit analysis only a wild guess.Despite all this, the ranks of freelance investigative reporters remain strong.