Article Human Rights & Press Freedom

Letter from the editors

Commissioning editor has to be one of the best jobs in any publishing organisation. Getting to set the agenda, having an article shaped to a specific style, niche or topic is a creative and rewarding part of the journalistic process. And it’s something that’s now open to every member of Contributoria with the recently launched topics area.

Although the feature is only a month old, it’s certainly not a new idea and has actually been in our minds from back when the site was merely a twinkle in the scribble of our feverish planning and plotting.

Let me explain. Contributoria was initially borne out of a desire to open up the processes of journalism. Back in the day when I edited a series of news websites I always found it frustrating, and to be frank, rather old fashioned, that commissioning was such a closed relationship. Every editor concerned with commissioning knows that the talent pool they access could (I’d say should) be wider and the tendency to rely on the same tried and trusted circle can be troubling in the context of increasing diversity in journalism.

After all, the Internet has allowed for a multitude of models where ‘the middleman’ can be bypassed, so why not journalism?

This democratising transparency of the process lies at the heart of what we are seeking to do here at Contributoria so I was genuinely thrilled to be able to make my first commission on the platform this month and for everyone involved to see exactly how it worked.

It was a short brief - to test the validity of MP’s claims that they could earn a great deal more outside of the House - and I think Nigel Marsh answered it admirably. Using our crowdsourcing tools, he succeeded in getting some backing from the community here and I topped up the remainder to secure the fee.

Of course, my commission was just one among the many from members and partner organisations alike.

Several partner organisations including Open Society Foundation, the Committee to Protect Journalists, IFEX, Arcus Foundation and UNESCO asked journalists to cover issues around human rights in digital contexts, challenges facing journalists and gender and equality issues to name a few.

I hope they all get the buzz of excitement I felt in seeing the process unfold, and look forward to seeing the writers continue to come up with imaginative ways to answer the briefs on offer.

Until next month, happy contributing.
Sarah, Matt and Dan

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