News from Project Word

Freelancer Survey

Canvassing the Landscape

Project Word director Laird Townsend reporting on climate change in the Gamo highlands, southern Ethiopia, in 2009. Photo by Nicolas Villaume, Conversations with the EarthProject Word director Laird Townsend reporting on climate change in the Gamo highlands, southern Ethiopia, in 2009. Photo by Nicolas Villaume, Conversations with the EarthIn an age of shrinking newsrooms, philanthropic support has become increasingly vital to investigative reporting - and that includes freelance reporting. Project Word, a nonprofit organization that facilitates freelance stories for media outlets, is conducting a national survey on freelance investigative reporting.
The survey aims to inform efforts to support freelancers. Project Word is sharing a summary of survey results with almost a dozen participating journalistic institutions, from the Fund for Investigative Journalism to the Society of Professional Journalists.
There are two separate on-line surveys here: one for NON-freelancers, and one for freelancers. Both versions are strictly anonymous and confidential. All data from the survey will be shared in aggregate only.

Each survey has its own link. Choose your option:
1) Freelancer survey (c. 15 minutes, with option for additional questions)
Freelancers: reporters, writers, broadcast producers, or photojournalists who have done freelance investigative reporting in any medium, to any degree - regardless of the extent to which their current freelance load includes investigative reporting.
Link to freelancer survey:
Freelancer Survey

2) Non-freelancer survey (c.10 minutes)
Non-freelancers: anyone who isn’t currently freelancing but engages somehow in investigative reporting in the public interest - from staff reporters and editors to funders and journalism professors.
Link to non-freelancer survey:
Non-Freelancer Survey

Note: To generate the strongest needs assessment, Project Word is asking folks to distribute this survey privately via any journalistic listserv or outlet - or share directly with journalism colleagues. Thanks!

Deadline is Friday, April 4. For more information, please contact me at 413-528-6592

Sat, 03/22/2014 - 6:43pm

The Nation

Upcoming report

In November 2013 The Nation magazine arranged to publish another Project Word piece, with a tentative release date of February, 2014. The story, reported by Ian T. Shearn, investigates a contested incident involving a US company, with substantial political implications. We are grateful to the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute for supporting Shearn’s reporting. Thank you! The last Project Word piece to appear in The Nation was Teo Ballvé’s investigation of Plan Colombia in 2008.

Mon, 12/23/2013 - 3:24pm

Center for Investigative Reporting

Mutual goal

Project Word has a new administrative home.

From its founding in 2007, Project Word happily operated under the fiscal sponsorship of San Francisco-based Tides Center, which expertly incubates a wide range of nonprofit initiatives. For the next phase, we wanted to move to a more journalism-focused location. In August 2013, Project Word signed an agreement to become a fiscally sponsored project of the California-based Center for Investigative Reporting, one of the oldest and most prestigious nonprofit reporting organizations in the country. We look forward to working with the Center to advance a mutual goal: strengthening and diversifying investigative reporting in the public interest.

Fri, 12/20/2013 - 3:23pm

Dallas Morning News

Sunday edition feature

After nearly a year of reporting this piece on ExxonMobil, human rights, and the Supreme Court, a team assembled by Project Word and led by reporter Ian T. Shearn has contributed the results to the Dallas Morning News. This story, which published on Sunday, September 30, 2012, would not have been possible without Project Word.

But Project Word's role would not have been possible without our hard-working reporting team, the enterprising editors at the News, and a growing network of dedicated allies and supporters. Special thanks go to the Fund for Investigative Journalism for a grant to Shearn, to the Mailman Foundation for a grant to Project Word, and to Project Word's array of dedicated individual donors—all of whom rallied to make this reporting possible.

The work of nonprofit journalism is crucial to  serving the public interest. Consider making a donation to Project Word. And for more on the story and related work to come, see the Project Word blog.

Sun, 09/30/2012 - 8:40pm

In Exxon's Shadow

As company leaves Aceh, a complex legacy remains

A ten-foot-tall barbed wire fence surrounds each of ExxonMobil's natural gas fields in Lhoksukon, Aceh. Photo by Emily JohnsonA ten-foot-tall barbed wire fence surrounds each of ExxonMobil's natural gas fields in Lhoksukon, Aceh. Photo by Emily Johnson
At the height of Aceh's separatist conflict more than a decade ago, 11 plaintiffs filed a human rights lawsuit against ExxonMobil, the world's largest private oil company. The lawsuit has been ordered to trial, pending a Supreme Court ruling. But now the company plans to sell its stake in the area, where gas reserves are dwindling. As ExxonMobil prepares to depart, Emily Johnson takes us to visit the people that it will be leaving behind. See also her radio piece here.

What ExxonMobil Left Behind: The End of an Era in Aceh from Emily H. Johnson on Vimeo.

Sun, 09/30/2012 - 8:30pm

Legal Barriers

Lawsuit against ExxonMobil in limbo

A sign warns civilians to keep out of the first of four natural gas fields that together make up ExxonMobil's facility in Lhoksukon, Aceh. Photo by Emily JohnsonA sign warns civilians to keep out of the first of four natural gas fields that together make up ExxonMobil's facility in Lhoksukon, Aceh. Photo by Emily Johnson
In Project Word’s entrée into broadcasting, reporter Emily Johnson takes us to Aceh province, Indonesia, where we hear from a man who filed a human-rights lawsuit against ExxonMobil, joining more than a dozen other plaintiffs. They claim that the company's security personnel committed arbitrary detention, torture, and murder during a civil war. The case is on hold, awaiting a historic Supreme Court ruling expected as early as December. Emily Johnson filed this report for Free Speech Radio News.

Fri, 09/28/2012 - 2:01pm

Atlantic on-line

A sea-level view of Kuna culture in an age of climate change

On the trail of a climate mitigation plan in Panama, writer Ruxandra Guidi spun off this personal account of rising seas, flooded islands, and difficult decisions in Kuna Yala. Photos by Roberto Guerra.
You can read the article here.

Sun, 02/06/2011 - 4:28pm

Boston Globe Op-ed

An indigenous forestry expert takes on REDD and "fortress conservation"

It was one thing to guide Dennis Martinez, a Native American forestry expert, as he developed a 4,800-word essay on the climate-mitigation plan REDD for Nat Geo Newswatch. It was another to help Martinez reduce that essay by 80 percent, carving out a 750-word version for the Boston Globe's readers. The edited version,  which ran as an op-ed on January 10, 2010, allowed the Globe to serve its general newspaper audience with something that every good editor wants--an important untold story.
Read the article here.

Sun, 02/06/2011 - 4:17pm

National Geographic: Kuna

As a controversial climate-change plan targets their forests, a skeptical indigenous community holds its ground

This is one of two Project Word pieces that appeared on National Geographic News Watch in December, 2010. See below for its companion piece.

Scanning the web credits of Teo Ballve’s article in The Nation in mid-2009, the journalist Ruxandra Guidi came across Project Word and made contact. Guidi, a bilingual Venezuelan-born writer who had reported for the BBC and others, excelled at reporting the experiences of marginalized communities in magazine essays, broadcast shorts, and multimedia pieces. She was looking to develop her skills in investigative reporting and to explore “long-form,” or narrative journalism—longer features.

Like this one along the northeastern coast of Panama, the inhabited islands of Kuna Yala are increasingly flooding due to rising seas. As the Kuna consider whether to relocate to their forest on the mainland, they must also debate a climate-mitigation project, REDD, proposed for the same land. Photo by Roberto Guerra.

She was just the writer for Project Word. And Project Word had just the story for her—a profile of the Kuna peoples of Panama. In the end it also proved the perfect story for Nat Geo News Watch, which ran it with a companion piece on December 8, 2010. It quickly ranked in the top ten in the nation in relevant Google News categories like REDD, and Cancún.

Guidi’s was an emblematic story. In portraying the island-dwelling Kuna, who are vulnerable to climate change but also to one of its forest-targeting solutions, Guidi showed the controversial UN climate plan REDD through indigenous eyes. Guidi’s piece, complete with the photos of Roberto "Bear" Guerra, elegantly portrayed the tension of the Kuna’s pending decision on REDD, the human rights issues involved, and the implications for a stable climate, in time for Cancún. The husband and wife team also produced a beautiful multimedia piece portraying the Kuna, along with the other community profiled in the piece—the Emberá.

PDF here.

Sun, 12/12/2010 - 11:31pm

National Geographic: REDD

The missing alternative at Cancun: traditional indigenous stewardship

Dennis Martinez, a Native American forest-restoration specialist, had a unique perspective on climate mitigation: traditional knowledge. As Martinez knew intimately from his work, climatic chaos would wreak special havoc on degraded ecosystems, so that biodiversity was more important than ever. In his observations, and from studies in the field, he found that traditional indigenous communities had the best tools to preserve biodiversity and keep carbon in the ground.

But the UN’s climate mitigation plan, he was finding out, would further destroy or erode not only the biodiversity but also those cultures that were preserving it. And as a way to allow polluters to offset their pollution by preserving carbon-absorbing forests, he learned, the plan would also distract the world from failure to cut emissions at the smokestacks and tailpipes.

From an initial conversation in late 2008, this insight grew into a reported essay posted on National Geographic News Watch on December 8, 2010. Project Word helped every step of the way, providing the full complement of services—from developmental editing to entrée with editors. It ran with a companion story on Kuna Yala, an indigenous community in Panama, whose own experience with the plan resonated with Martinez’ essay.

PDF here.

Rising seas around Panama's Caribbean islands have forced the Kuna peoples to consider moving to their mainland territory--but it's the same land Panamanian authorities want to set aside for "avoided deforestation," part of the REDD program under debate at Cancún. Photo by Roberto Guerra.

Sun, 12/12/2010 - 11:30pm