While most newsrooms are shrinking, a virtual U.S. newsroom is expanding its roster of international freelance journalists and videomakers.
Ebyline co-founders Allen Narcisse and Bill Momary have manned the Los Angeles-based site since last year, providing mostly U.S. freelancers and publications a place to trade their work and collaborate on projects. News organizations pay fees to buy content from freelancers or other publications. There are no fees for freelancers, who also negotiate their own copyright agreements.
Since 2010, the site has approved more than 1,000 freelancers, managed more than 45,000 projects and done business with about 50 primarily U.S.-based news organizations like the Los Angeles Times, the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Knoxville News Sentinel. Ebyline has also recently added video content.
Now Ebyline has set its sights on international journalism, seeking to expand to China, South Korea, and Japan. Although only 3 percent to 5 percent of the freelancers are foreign, Narcisse hopes those numbers will soon rise. All Ebyline freelancers, however, must be authorized to work in the US.
IJNet talked with Narcisse about the future of the virtual newsroom and Ebyline's expansion.
IJNet: Foreign correspondent jobs have become harder to come by. How is Ebyline changing this?
Narcisse: We want to create a single destination, or database, for the outlets from around the world, to find trusted, reliable, ready-to-work journalists to complete assignments when they either don't want to send a staff reporter to cover the event, or don't have the specialty on staff. We are optimistic that creating that "virtual pool" of the best journalists in the world will create new opportunities and new relationships for foreign correspondents.
IJNet: Where are you most active? Where are you looking to expand and why?
Narcisse: Currently, we are most active in the U.S., but it is a priority for us to begin working internationally. I think our primary focus, in the short-term, will be English-language nations, chiefly because we think news organizations that publish in English will receive the biggest benefits from our current freelancer pool. Many of our partners have also expressed interest in working with English-speaking freelancers outside of the U.S., who can cover specific sectors, technology for example.
IJNet: Why do regional papers seem to be your main clients? Are they interested in international stories?
Narcisse: Regional U.S. papers that are heavily focused on local coverage for a local audience are among the first to embrace a broad strategy to work with freelancers to produce a wide variety of content for all sections.
I think this group could have limited interest in international stories, but more likely, other types of niche publications (for example publications covering technology, religion, automotive, sports, etc.) will want to tap into the international pool of freelancers to report on content that their audiences are looking for.