Support Investigative Reporting about the Online Harassment of Female Journalists

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
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One of the most common challenges writers and journalists face is that of funding the research phase of their work. Unless you’re on staff (and even then, there’s no guarantee), it can be tough to cobble together the money that allows you to do the work that’s necessary to investigate and report a story responsibly and thoroughly. All too often, we pay out of pocket in the hope that our investment will pay off– that we’ll be able to sell the story once we’ve committed money and time into writing it.

It’s a gamble I’ve made time and again, but one that has become harder to make now that I have three children and more financial responsibilities. Investing money in a project that may not have a sure outcome isn’t the best business strategy.

That’s why I’ve been very grateful for Contributoria, a platform that supports journalists and writers by funding their project proposals. I’ve been able to research and report two stories thanks to their support, one of which has been republished in The Guardian, a partner of the platform.

The way Contributoria works is akin to crowdfunding, but supporters don’t pledge any of their own money to back a project. Instead, they use their monthly allotment of 50 points to “back” projects they want to see funded by the site. You sign up for a free account at www.contributoria.com and allot your points as you wish. Contributoria doesn’t send out any spam and neither do I– just a monthly notification when I’ve listed a new project proposal and when I’ve published a project.

My past projects can be found here.

My next project is about online harassment of female journalists in the U.S. and Mexico, and I’m especially excited about it because it’s a collaboration with PBS MediaShift. It requires quite a bit of backing– about 450 more supporters by the end of the month. I’d appreciate it if you’d take a look at my proposal and back it if you feel so inclined. You can sign up for an account on Contributoria’s main page.

And feel free to spread the word! I’m @collazoprojects on twitter.

Thank you.

In Defense of Facebook and Twitter

I’m what tech analysts and marketers call a “late adopter.”

For months, I resisted opening Facebook and Twitter accounts– another user ID? Another password? Another site to remember to visit, to keep updated?

No thanks.

But then, I gave in.

As I began to participate in both of these virtual social networks, I noticed friends and acquaintances simultaneously using the services while questioning their value. They wrote about the corrosive effect they believed Facebook and Twitter might have over the long run, worried that online social sites will replace “meaningful” communication with sound bytes and only increase our dependence upon computers. Wasn’t knowing what was on friends’ minds at the second they happened to update their status a bit banal?

But as people I hadn’t heard from in 10 years or more started to “friend” me on Facebook, I began to think that I couldn’t disagree more with the arguments against Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook and Twitter made finding people and reconnecting with them effortless, doing the work of tracking down old friends for me by searching my e-mail, my past employment, and schools attended for contacts.

What was more important, though, was exactly what some critics bemoaned: access to the utterly mundane details of friends’ lives. Though I’m not intrigued by the fact that a friend has just finished a load of laundry or gotten home from work, I’ve learned things about close friends and acquaintances that I’d never known and which can make our relationships richer. “Listening to Silvio Rodriguez,” one friend wrote just today. Who knew? I love Silvio Rodriguez, too.

“Family coming to visit this weekend,” wrote a dear friend who I’d lost touch with. “Say hi!” I wrote back, thinking how long it’s been since I’ve seen his mom.

“Baking a cake,” wrote an acquaintance who I’d never known possessed a penchant for cooking.

It’s precisely these details that I do want to know about my friends, whose lives are unfolding far from my own, and with people I don’t know. The most quotidian details of our daily lives are what count, and they’re precisely what we miss in e-mails, written letters, and phone calls, where we struggle to figure out where to pick up the threads of our relationships across the time and space that separate us. After a few earnest efforts, the thread grows slack again. We think we’ve got nothing left to say. We think the people we once thought would be friends forever don’t care much, now, about whether we’ve learned to bake, what music fills our ears, who we’re spending the weekend with.

Best friends from school days move in different circles, have totally different careers, have grown–just as I have–into different people with the same sweet and true core. I could be sad that I hardly know them, or I could be fascinated and excited about the people we’ve all become. Facebook and Twitter let me be the latter.

Photo: litlnemo (Flickr creative commons)