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The Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, a leading voice in collaborative journalism, will head a yearlong research project to study collaboration between journalists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The research is supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and will address two complimentary trends being seen around the world: greater collaboration in the journalism field and an increase in journalistic activity by NGOs.
The award marks the first time Montclair State University has received funding from the global foundation, the largest private philanthropic organization in the world.
“This research will add another piece to the puzzle of how both journalism and advocacy are being reshaped in the digital era,” says Sarah Stonbely, Center for Cooperative Media research director and principal investigator on the project.
Collaborative journalism has taken off around the world as news outlets of all sizes have had to grapple with scarce resources and fragmented audiences, while embracing new technologies that have facilitated partnership.
NGO-journalism collaboration has also become more prevalent. NGOs have more and more had to become information providers themselves, while also becoming more intentional about their impact and reach.
This type of partnership is not without sticking points, but when done properly, there is mutual benefit. A recent example is an initiative between Transparency International (TI) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), in which investigative journalists from OCCRP produce detailed reporting on the secretive shadow economy. Advocates from TI then translate these complex stories into the political and social arenas as calls for change.
“The study of NGO-journalism collaboration is a case of the research world catching up to real-world practice,” says Stonbely. “We want to better understand what’s happening on the ground so that finite philanthropic resources can facilitate and further the good work that’s already being done.”
The Center for Cooperative Media is uniquely positioned to lead the project.
The Center annually hosts the Collaborative Journalism Summit, the world’s only annual convening of collaborative journalism practitioners and interested academics. As part of the Center’s year-round collaborative journalism program, it runs the website collaborativejournalism.org, maintains a database of collaborative projects, regularly conducts research, writes case studies, provides consulting, collects best practices and funds collaborative reporting projects.
“We’ve seen an acceleration in the use of collaboration as a tool for the journalism industry to tackle large, complex projects and expand scale and reach. As a result, the Center is fielding more and more requests for research into what works and what doesn’t,” said Stefanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media. “This project is important because it will ultimately provide real-word guidance to news organizations and NGOs looking to collaborate in an ethical and effective manner, and to funders looking to support such work.”
For more information on the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, visit centerforcooperativemedia.org. For more information on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, visit gatesfoundation.org.