This network is setting a new standard for collaborative journalism

Dec 27, 2023 in Collaborative Journalism
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Valuable journalism is created worldwide every day. Too often, however, it gets overlooked – especially reporting produced in smaller communities. 

The Human Journalism Network (HJN), which I previously served as an editor, launched in 2023 to meet the needs of these audiences, while boosting the work of newsrooms globally. Founded by ICFJ Knight Fellow Chani Guyot, an experienced Argentine journalist, editor and media innovator, the bilingual journalism initiative translates and shares reported articles between and among news outlets all over the world. It has become an essential bridge for 14 of them today.

HJN curates “human journalism” narratives that highlight critical global challenges and amplify underreported stories, emphasizing their significance in driving positive change and fostering a deeper understanding of a wide range of global issues. 

“Readers are nowadays many times exposed to a fast, superficial approach to international news. We’re facilitating a network that provides outlets with local, in-depth, quality journalism that showcases the constructive human stories behind those many times overwhelming headlines,” said Guyot.

HJN initially invited Spanish and English-language media outlets to join as partners. Network members are able to access one story a week written by another partner outlet, edited and translated by the HJN team.

It’s all a big “extreme collaborative experiment,” said Guyot. “They’re essentially media outlets who didn’t know each other, republishing their work mutually, trusting the project and our management of it.”

Guyot and the HJN team select, edit and translate one article per week, providing the 14 participating news outlets with a well-reported article telling a human journalism story. Topics covered in 2023 included migration, climate change, health, human rights, gender-based violence, homelessness and urban issues, among others. 

The newsrooms taking part in 2023 were Convoca from Peru, Daily Maverick from South Africa, from Spain, El Toque from Cuba, GK contributing from Ecuador, The Globe and Mail from Canada, Rappler from the Philippines, RED/ACCIÓN and Río Negro from Argentina, the San Francisco Chronicle from the U.S., The Irish News from Ireland, The Quint representing India, Mi Voz from Chile, and Reasons to be Cheerful from the U.K. 

Stories like "How a farm in Northern Ireland proves the healing power of nature” from The Irish News and Rappler’s “Masbate illegal fishers turn wardens of the sea” offered insights into environmental resilience and community-driven conservation efforts. These pieces underscored the urgency of addressing environmental challenges while highlighting local initiatives that are putting forth sustainable solutions. 

Articles such as “A mentoring program boosts Cuban women in the creative industries" published by El Toque and "#MeToo Cuba: shaping a safe community for survivors" by Rappler illuminated empowering initiatives around gender equality, and the significance of safe spaces for fostering equality and recovery for survivors of sexual violence. 

Still, other stories, like "Women community leaders, key actors to promote rights among the world’s most persecuted ethnic group” by RED/ACCIÓN and “111 Trees Per Daughter Changed This Village’s Future” from Reasons to be Cheerful reflected upon the pivotal roles played by community leaders, and innovative programs advocating for rights and fostering sustainable change. These narratives underscored the resilience and impactful contributions of marginalized groups, urging a broader recognition of their agency.

To date, the project has enabled 25 reported stories to be republished more than 200 times across the network, reaching an overall audience of over 500,000 pageviews, according to HJN. The effort has proven a testament to the initiative’s collaborative spirit: from the selection of the stories in each newsroom, to the editing, translation and distribution, the network has functioned as a cross-border collective. Its ability to showcase a diversity of voices and sources has stood out as a defining feature, with participants valuing the quality of content and the platform's user-friendly design for story republishing. 

Guyot assembled a team of editors and translators that each week discuss translation needs and how the selected pieces can be made understandable for global audiences. They created a streamline that allowed all participating newsrooms to access the selected articles in a timely manner. Next year, Guyot said, refinements in translation and adjustments in scheduling will be carried out to improve the networks' efficiency. 

“We plan to emphasize more in 'global editing,' which means we’ll adapt the original articles for an international audience,” he said. HJN’s team of translators and editors will work to make sure that all jargon and details are clear to any reader — especially those local details that could render a story difficult for readers outside specific communities to understand. 

Identifying and evaluating sustainable business models has also been a challenge in 2023. HJN explored brand sponsorships, partner contributions, institutional support, and auxiliary services as possible revenue streams, highlighting the intricate balance needed for sustainability without compromising the network’s essence. 

Next year, Guyot envisions expanding HJN's reach to 24 media outlets, an important step toward amplifying its impact. The project also plans to jump from 25 to 48 republished stories.

HJN continues to pioneer collaborative reporting, amplifying stories that transcend borders and elevate a diversity of voices, with an eye toward redefining the global journalism landscape. As the initiative moves into its next chapter – a broader and multilingual 2024 edition – it beckons media worldwide to join this collaborative expedition, where diversity, quality storytelling, and community-building reign. 

It's not just about sharing stories; it's about amplifying voices, bridging cultures, and pushing the frontiers of journalism in a world hungry for authentic narratives.

If you’d like to contact The Human Journalism Network you can write to:

Photo by Mario Gogh on Unsplash.