Microloans (now gifts!) for Journalists

As newsrooms across the country face layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we felt a need to help our colleagues get through this difficult period and knew that other journalists wanted to do the same. The hard part was figuring out how to connect people who need help with those who want to give help — so we created Microloans for Journalists.

How it works

Update (Jan. 19, 2021): We’re happy to say that at the end of 2020, we were able to match all our recipients with donors. Thank you donors for all your help and generosity. For now, we’re going to take a hiatus from running Microloans for Journalists as we take a much-needed break. In the meantime, if you’re looking to receive or give money to your fellow journalists, we recommend you take a look at IWMF’s emergency funds.

How we’ll verify and match you

Before matching anyone, we’ll verify that every donor is a professional journalist and that each recipient is a professional journalist who has been laid off, furloughed, or had your pay cut. Then, each time we receive $500 worth of donor pledges, we’ll match the verified donors with the next verified recipient who applied, and the recipient and donor(s) will handle transfering money directly to each other. No one on the matching team will ever handle the money.

Other resources for those experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19:

We know that this program won’t work for everyone, so here are a couple of other funds we know about that are also trying to provide relief for journalists. We’ll add to this list as we see more.

Efforts raising relief funds for journalists:

Thank you to our donors and previous lenders who have already pledged:


FAQ

Who is organizing this?

Updated April 21, 2020: We are a group of five journalists. Robert Faturechi, Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders are all reporters at ProPublica, and previously worked at daily newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, East Valley Tribune and Florida Times-Union. Sisi Wei is director of programs at OpenNews, an organization working to make journalism more inclusive and equitable, and to help journalists take care of one another. Sisi previously was an editor at ProPublica, and has worked as a journalist in newsrooms such as the Washington Post and Minnesota Public Radio. Anna Maria Barry-Jester is a reporter with Kaiser Health News and previously worked at FiveThirtyEight, Univision and ABC News. This is our first time setting up a microloans platform, so if you have suggestions or feedback, please let us know at microloans.for.journalists@gmail.com.

I’m a retired journalist or a journalism professor, can I be a donor?

Yes!

As a lender, can I give my pledge as a gift instead of a loan?

As of July 6, 2020 the program has shifted to provide only gifts going forward.

I really want to be anonymous to my recipient or to my donor, is that possible?

Since we only do matching and don’t touch the money ourselves, we haven’t found a good way to do a match anonymously. If it’s important to you to be anonymous, please consider giving to one of the funds to help journalists like this one in Virginia or this one in Florida.

Why $500 specifically?

We didn’t want to put recipients in the position of needing to ask for a specific amount. We also didn’t feel qualified or comfortable evaluating whether someone actually needed what they asked for. Instead, we figured that $500 is an amount that would be helpful to any journalist in need, and we’re confident that we can recruit enough donors so that we can facilitate at least a few $500 loans.

I’m not a journalist but I’d like to help. What can I do?

Help us spread the word, especially if you know of smaller newsrooms that have laid off or furloughed staff, or that have cut staff pay. Reach out to them and let them know that this program exists. You can also share this program on social media, or contribute to one of the funds to help journalists like this one in Virginia or this one in Florida.

Why can only journalists become donors?

Because this is a 1:1 gifting program, we want to avoid individual journalists directly receiving money from another individual they may be responsible for covering at any point.

I’m a freelancer and therefore haven’t been technically laid off, furloughed, or had my “pay cut,” but I’ve lost a lot of income. Can I be a borrower?

We didn’t feel qualified or comfortable asking freelancers to prove that they’ve lost income due to COVID-19, so at this time, we’re limiting borrowers to journalists who have been laid off, furloughed, or had their pay cut. If you’re a freelancer who has been hit hard however, we highly recommend you check out the Freelancers Relief Fund.

How do I set up a program like this in my country?

If you are not in the United States and would like to set up a program like this locally, please contact us at microloans.for.journalists@gmail.com and we’ll be happy to share what we know. We’re also working on creating publicly available documentation on how we set this up.

Other questions?

If you have any additional questions that we didn’t cover here, email us at microloans.for.journalists@gmail.com.