It Takes a Journalist
Supporting a Global Network in Times of Crisis
Strengthening journalism, and supporting journalists, everywhere.Download the Case
Strengthening journalism, and supporting journalists, everywhere.Download the Case
ICFJ empowers an unparalleled global network of media professionals – serving more than 160,000 journalists around the world. Over the last five years alone, ICFJ has operated in 125 countries. We are dedicated to advancing high-quality journalism that addresses pressing global issues, informs citizens, and improves lives.
ICFJ helps journalists combat disinformation, innovate editorially, and create sustainable business models for independent news outlets as we face a world beset by overlapping crises. Your support is truly meaningful as we quickly deploy funds to assist journalists who are putting their lives on the line to bring us the news.
Our campaign is providing direct support, training, and resources to journalists.
Many newsrooms lack the time to develop innovative solutions to the challenges facing journalism — from rising disinformation to skeptical audiences to threats from authoritarian leaders. As part of this campaign ICFJ launched Leap – ICFJ’s News Innovation Lab, a space for journalists and technologists to explore, design and develop solutions that address specific problems.Learn More
News outlets, especially those serving local communities and operating in fragile democracies, are facing unprecedented challenges and daunting odds. That’s why we are making a special effort to help journalists build new ventures and achieve financial sustainability. Early investments in our It Takes a Journalist campaign have led to the launch of ICFJ’s Elevate news business hub that is providing independent small and mid-size news outlets with the training and resources they need to become financially viable so that they can provide accurate news to their communities well into the future.Learn More
With support from the The Jim Hoge Legacy Fund, Nigerian journalist Philip Obaji Jr. has been investigating the activities of the Russian Wagner Group in West and Central Africa, uncovering instances of human rights violations.
Reporting from Cameroon, Obaji meets with local community members – including survivors of massacres conducted by Russian paramilitaries – who have fled the Central African Republic (CAR). Obaji occasionally ventures into CAR despite the risks. “It’s very difficult to go into CAR because I think the people know me very well, know me enough to either kill or capture me, which is the instructions that some of the commanders give to the mercenaries,” he shared.
Through his investigations, Obaji has published an in-depth report on the continued atrocities being committed since the death of Wagner Group’s Yevgeny Prigozhin. His findings reveal the insidious Russian influence in CAR’s mining operations despite previous accusations of war crimes and widespread destruction.
Talha Ahad’s team at The Centrum Media (TCM), Pakistan’s first digital news network, has produced exclusive visual storytelling on Guantanamo Bay prisoners, drone-attack survivors, and transgender activists since it launched in 2017. The independent outlet is now positioned to do even more, thanks to growth strategies it developed through ICFJ’s Elevate news business hub.
Ahad and his team worked with a media business strategy consultant to conduct audience analytics, specifically on YouTube, to test what content was effective and what wasn’t. Before Elevate, Ahad said it was difficult to find mentors who could provide specific advice for digital independent outlets like TCM. “The biggest problem was that the Pakistani digital news ecosystem has not been developed a lot,” he said. “Because there is no ecosystem, there was no mentorship.”
Since participating in Elevate, TCM has grown its revenue by 25% and its audience reach by 33% with in-depth, independent video news coverage, in a country dominated by traditional media.
With support from ICFJ’s Elevate news business hub, Malawian online media organization, iHubOnline, has carved a niche in AI. Founder Mallick Mnela and team are now developing a translation model to enhance news content production for Chichewa-speaking audiences in Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Despite being spoken by millions across Southern Africa, Chichewa is considered a low-resource language – a language that is spoken by a large number of people but not widely used on the internet.
“The Elevate Program is intense… we started to see our organization for what it is or what it could be.” Building on this AI project, iHubOnline recently secured support from Microsoft Founders Startup Hub to continue developing ChewaGPT, a Chichewa adaptation of OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
U.S. Journalist Nick Toso and Singaporean data scientist Zhouhan Chen, collaborated to create Rolli Information Tracer, an AI-powered tool for journalists designed to detect misinformation. The tool analyzes social media for suspicious narratives, patterns, and coordinated campaigns, shedding light on how falsehoods propagate.
“The support from ICFJ, particularly from their Leap innovation lab, has been instrumental in Rolli’s growth and international expansion,” Toso said. “ICFJ’s mentorship has been pivotal in developing a product that upholds the trust and integrity of journalism in the age of AI.”
The tool is currently being beta-tested and is available for over 1,000 stations from the American Public Media Group, and approximately 400 news organizations affiliated with the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) in the U.S. The platform will soon be available to an additional 2,000-plus newsrooms and stations.
In 2023, ICFJ’s Elevate news business hub provided training and mentorship to 21 small- and medium-sized news organizations across 18 countries with the goal of enhancing the business skills of C-level executives and fostering sustainable growth in newsrooms.
Among the program’s success stories is Socportal Media Agency, a Ukrainian news outlet focused on delivering fair and detailed coverage of the Ukraine war in four languages. With support from ICFJ, the team is developing new revenue streams and expanding existing ones. Notably, Socportal has introduced a PR service for nonprofits. This innovative approach is expected to bolster the organization’s financial sustainability, ensuring steady and crucial news coverage, particularly on human rights and the impacts of the Ukrainian war.
After participating in the Pamela Howard Forum on Global Crisis Reporting, another ICFJ project supported by the It Takes a Journalist campaign, Brazilian journalist Daniel Nardin was inspired to develop Amazônia Vox. Amazônia Vox aims to enhance visibility and opportunities for professionals in the region, fostering better coverage of Amazonian issues. The platform includes data from more than 300 freelance journalists and almost 600 sources collected by Nardin and the Amazônia Vox team.
Nardin’s platform facilitates connections between journalists, sources, and other professionals in the Amazon, creating reliable contacts and promoting collaboration with colleagues and media from different regions. Notably, Amazonia Vox was recognized as one of the 10 most innovative journalistic projects in Latin America by LatAM Journalism Review.
An Egyptian online magazine – E7kky (“Speak” in Arabic) – an outlet about, for, and from women in the Arab world, had to let go of 60% of their staff due to the pandemic. They were desperate to find new revenue streams. As one of the 17 organizations that took part in the first phase of Elevate, ICFJ’s news business hub, E7kky worked with an ICFJ mentor to identify solutions.
E7kky realized their audience as its most valuable asset, which motivated them to establish the E7kky Hub, a space for events that focus on women’s empowerment. While it’s still very early to measure the impacts, in just 8 months, there has been an average growth in revenue of 13% and an overall average growth in monthly users of 18% for participating news outlets.
With these new revenue streams, E7kky is projecting an increase in revenue from $55,000 in 2022 to $150,000 in 2023. Soon, they will also be launching the E7kky Academy for women and girls to learn about everything from digital security to sexual and reproductive health.
Beijing’s tightening grip on free speech in Hong Kong has forced news organizations to close and many of their journalists to flee the country. From exile, reporters are launching new publications, working to evade censorship and reach audiences with verified news. Journalist Tinshui Yeung is helping these media navigate the complex challenges that come with their work. How can they pay reporters in country safely? How can they defend against authoritarian attempts to erase their journalism from the internet?
As an ICFJ Knight Innovation Fellow, Tinshui researched solutions to these questions – interviewing news leaders operating in repressive environments – and advised Chinese-language news organizations based on what he found. Several adopted the tools he recommended, from offshore payment systems to website “plug-ins” that protect content in a decentralized way. The result: Today, these news outlets can make payments more securely and better ensure their journalism remains easily accessible to audiences (what Tinshui calls “operational resilience”).
Tinshui’s work with ICFJ helped him secure a fellowship at Georgetown University to expand his research. In 2023 he also will advise more news outlets facing censorship, expanding beyond Chinese-language media.
Leap, ICFJ’s news innovation lab, helped Sérgio Spagnuolo of Brazil and his team launch “Election SOS” Pulse to monitor and analyze the information – and disinformation – that political campaigners share on social media. During the 2022 midterm election cycle in the U.S., this tool highlighted posts by 300 nonpartisan experts to help journalists identify trending questions and authoritative sources. Pulse was also adopted by New Mexico In Depth, an investigative reporting news outlet in a state where disinformation was rampant during close governor’s and House races. Most recently, Pulse helped amplify reliable information about an effort by Georgia Democrats to expand voting days during the Dec. 6 runoff election won by Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Previously, Sérgio has developed Pulse tools for connecting scientists with journalists, elevating reliable sources about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and more.
With the support of this campaign, ICFJ Innovation Fellows brought cutting-edge tools and strategies across borders to address the U.S. disinformation crisis head-on during the 2022 midterm election cycle. ICFJ Fellow Laura Zommer– a fact-checking pioneer from Argentina – created Factchequeado in response to election misinformation spreading through Spanish-speaking communities in the U.S. Prior to the midterm elections in 2022, Zommer brought together more than two dozen news outlets and fact-checking organizations in 15 U.S. states, including all the swing states, and shared verified information on everything from inflation and gas prices to early voting and mail-in ballots. Factchequeado has been featured in The New York Times and on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.
Zommer has created a network of 61 Spanish- language organizations, spanning 19 states and Puerto Rico, in preparation for the 2024 elections.
The It Takes a Journalist campaign is providing support to the news outlet Rubryka, our close partner in Ukraine founded by Anastasia Rudenko, to help them stay in business and do deep reporting on the long-term environmental impacts of the war, especially on possible nuclear station leaks.
Anastasia and her team are developing a project called EcoSolutions, which addresses a largely ignored outcome of the war: environmental problems that could have lethal consequences and endure for decades. EcoSolutions already has launched a site featuring environmental stories, and the team is finishing a Telegram chatbot that will give Ukrainians immediate and crucial information on issues such as water and air contamination, food security, and the fragile state of nuclear power plants.
“The scale of (environmental) impact was colossal,” Anastasia says. “War reporting may be the number one priority, but … we feel it’s important to produce other kinds of stories that are useful to people and help them.”
The Joyce Barnathan Emergency Fund is a vital part of our It Takes a Journalist campaign and provides urgent support to journalists in distress, helping them to stay free and safe. Recipients of funding are ICFJ’s close partners who stand out for their excellent journalism – resources are deployed when we cannot wait to secure other institutional grants because lives are on the line.
In 2021, ICFJ mobilized quickly to help Afghan journalist and 2012 ICFJ Knight Award winner Sami Mahdi to flee Kabul with his family three days before the Taliban took over. We covered immigration fees and travel costs so he could safely settle in the U.S. Now, he is carrying on important work helping Afghan journalists and others as a member of ICFJ’s staff.
Despite Putin’s aggressive media crackdown, Roman Anin’s IStories, a Russian independent investigative news site, continues to report on the war in exile. We are providing critical support through the Joyce Barnathan Emergency Fund to Roman and his team of reporters, who have been proclaimed foreign agents and undesirable by the Kremlin.
After IStories published an interview with a Russian soldier who confessed to war crimes in August 2022, other soldiers reached out to share more stories from the frontlines. IStories heard directly from dozens of Russian soldiers who want to leave the army. An estimated 700 soldiers from a single brigade are threatening to walk away.
El Pitazo, or The Whistleblower, is one of the few independent investigative news sites in autocratic Venezuela. With support of ICFJ’s Elevate news business hub, El Pitazo developed a new evaluation model and connected with an ICFJ mentor to determine which of its many products could bring in the most revenue compared to the cost.
With funding from ICFJ, El Pitazo created a new 3-year financial plan and is now developing new marketing strategies to support the production of trustworthy news. In the first six months of 2023 alone, El Pitazo’s revenue from paid campaigns was equivalent to 89% of the revenue generated in all of 2022.
“I think it’s very clear that world events have put us right in the center of what we’ve professed to be able to do – provide urgent support to journalists. And ICFJ is absolutely doing that with this campaign.”
– Rodman Moorhead, It Takes a Journalist Campaign Vice Chair
Dee Dee Reilly was among ICFJ’s most steadfast supporters for more than two decades and made journalism – and promoting truth – a priority in her philanthropy. To continue her legacy, Dee Dee’s children Anna, Sean, Kevin and Wendell Reilly have made a generous donation in her memory.
“ICFJ has done a lot of important work over the years, but now, with democracies around the world under the growing threat of disinformation, the work of ICFJ is more important than ever – and that’s why my siblings and I have decided to increase our support and make a meaningful commitment to It Takes a Journalist campaign.” Wendell Reilly, ICFJ Director and It Takes a Journalist Campaign Committee Member.
With your backing, we can help reliable, independent news media survive and thrive.We invite you to join us in securing a strong future for journalism