Microloans 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

If you’re a professional journalist who has been laid off, furloughed, or had your pay cut by your news outlet and urgently need assistance, you can apply to receive an interest-free $500 loan, to be repaid in one year. The money will come solely from fellow journalists. The money is a loan, not a donation, but since we’re only matching people together, there are no mechanisms to ensure repayment. That said, this is a community in which honesty is paramount, so we’re expecting that borrowers will make good faith efforts to pay their loans back within a year. The loans will be provided on a first come, first served basis. Each time we have $500 in pledges, we’ll match the lender(s) with the next borrower.

Update (May 19, 2020): We've already matched over 25 journalists who wanted help. We have a lot more funds — in the form of pledges from fellow journalists — to help more folks. Please don't hesitate to sign up to borrow if you think it would help bring you some financial relief.

Update (April 10, 2020): We've raised over $60,000 in verified pledges and counting and will be able to make at least 120 loans totalling $500 each. Thank you. We'll start sending out initial matches in one week, on Friday, April 17. Until then, we'll be verifying the nearly 100 lenders we still need to process, and our incoming borrowers as quickly as we can. Our organizing team is extremely grateful for the support the community has shown. Most of us are working only on nights and weekends to make this happen, so thank you for your patience!

I’d really love to get help. What do I do?

Sign up to Borrow

Sign up to be a borrower and commit to making a good faith effort to pay your lenders back within a year. Any professional journalist in the United States who has been laid off, furloughed or had their pay cut by their news outlet and urgently needs assistance is eligible to sign up.

In the form above, we’ll ask you for some basic information about yourself and for some proof that you have been laid off, furloughed, or had your pay cut. Your identity will not be made public and will be known only to the organizers of this program, and to the fellow journalist or journalists lending you money. Your lender or lenders will send you the money directly, via a platform like Venmo, Square Cash, PayPal, Zelle or Apple Pay. You will be committing to making a good faith effort to pay your lenders back within a year. If the borrower or lender objects to a match in any way, we’ll figure out a new match.

I’m in a position to help. What do I do?

Become a Lender

Update (April 10, 2020): We still encourage you to pledge! Because of the large volume of lender pledges we received during our first week, we're now focused on verifying everyone who has already pledged. Lenders who pledge now will not see their names reflected in our thank you list until our first round of matches is complete and we start verifying lenders again.

Sign up to be a lender and pledge to loan a fellow journalist an amount of money you’re comfortable with.

In the form above, we’ll ask you for some basic information about yourself and how much you’re pledging to lend. We’d love to recognize our lenders for their generosity, so we’ll be including your name and pledged amount below, though you’ll have the option of staying anonymous. You will be responsible for sending the amount you’re lending directly to the borrower we match you with, via a platform like Venmo, Square Cash, PayPal, Zelle or Apple Pay. (If you pledge more than $500, you will be matched with more than one borrower.) Though we expect loans will be paid back, please lend only an amount you can afford to lose. If the borrower or lender objects to a match in any way, we’ll figure out a new match.

How we’ll verify and match you

Before matching anyone, we’ll verify that every lender is a professional journalist and that each borrower is a professional journalist who has been laid off, furloughed, or had your pay cut. Then, each time we receive $500 worth of lender pledges, we’ll match the verified lenders with the next verified borrower who applied, and the borrower and lender(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 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 lender?

Yes!

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

Of course! When you’re matched with a borrower, tell them directly the good news! We know some lenders prefer to directly give instead of loan, but didn’t we want to make that a requirement of participating. As a lender, however, please also be sensitive to your borrower’s preferences — some may not be comfortable receiving a gift and would want to pay you back. If that’s the case, please respect their wishes.

I really want to be anonymous to my borrower or to my lender, 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 borrowers 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 lenders 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 lenders?

Because this is a 1:1 loan 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.