Felix Franz is the head of communication and content at Hostwriter, an online platform that connects journalists from around the world and helps them to collaborate.
“Hostwriter is a collaborative network and online platform for journalists, where journalists can find each other to help each other with advice or write together, coauthorship or to help each other with accommodation during research trips. This support is important in these times of globalization, as it helps journalists work without having more funds, because there is less funds in journalism,” says Franz.
The platform was established by three female journalists who aim to make journalism global. Established in Germany in 2014, the site today connects more than 1,700 journalists from more than 90 countries.
How is Hostwriter attractive for journalists?
I think journalism is a profession where the more information you have, the more likely it is that you get pretty close to the truth. And journalists can be very helpful sources for other journalists, because they know what you need and how important accuracy is. Hostwriter is a network that can improve journalists’ work, help check facts, and help them see the bigger picture by asking colleagues.
But it also has a bit of a social factor: for example, if I’m going next week to, say, Bangkok, I can contact the five journalists in our network in Bangkok and say, “Hey, I’m here, shall we meet up for a coffee? I wanna do a story.” It’s also kind of sociable to be able to just find colleagues in other areas and ask them for advice for your story or for coffee.
We want to move away from ‘lone wolf reporting’ towards collaborative journalism.
Of course, the main point is the professional use, but it’s also nice to feel that you’re part of a community of journalists from around the world. At least, that’s the feeling we want to give.
We’ve got lots of projects in the pipeline. We don’t want to be just a platform: we eventually want to become a movement towards collaborative journalism and move away from ‘lone wolf reporting’ towards collaborative journalism. We are planning to organize an international conference and workshops, and we are going to establish the Hostwriter prize to foster international, cross-border collaboration between journalists.
Why should I join Hostwriter if I can find a journalist, say, on Twitter?
On Hostwriter, a journalist’s personal page is a professional profile page, where you can see information about their published articles, their expertise, and the languages they speak. We verify the accounts to make sure they’re actually journalists.
Also, there might be times when a journalist working on a story doesn’t want others to see whom they contacted through Twitter or another social network for information. It’s important for us that Hostwriter is a closed and safe environment for journalists, that no one can see who contacted whom and how.
Can users also ask for practical help, for example, to visualize data or to create an infographic?
Of course. We have journalists focused on data journalism in our network. You can search the site by expertise, entering “data journalism” or “data” as keywords, and then you can see all the people who put data in their profiles. You can look at their profiles and see their work samples. If any of them interest you, you can send them a message, say, “I’m doing this project, I would love some advice, would you be up for a Skype call?” And then of course it’s up to that journalist to agree to help you, to speak with you.
It’s nice to feel that you’re part of a community of journalists from around the world.
How long does it take to verify an account of a person who registers on Hostwriter?
Approximately 48 hours. We do it by hand, without the help of any software. We are in the process of finding more efficient ways of doing this. At the moment, we read the applicant’s news stories to figure out whether they’re a journalist or not. If their work is in another language, we translate it.
You also have code of ethics. What are the consequences if someone violates it?
We want people to adhere to these journalistic standards and not take advantage of each other. If people coauthor works, to talk about it beforehand, come to an agreement on monetary matters. If we get a complaint, we try to investigate the issue, speak with the parties. Then we we make a decision. In the worst case scenario, we will remove the person who violated the code of ethics from the platform and block them.
Large media outlets usually have their own network of journalists. Are there any journalists from prominent media outlets on Hostwriter?
Yes, we have journalists on our network from all prominent media outlets: from the BBC, CNN, Globe in Brazil, The New York Times, The Guardian, CCTV in China, and many other media outlets.
Interview by Anna Barseghyan
The interview was conducted during the “Media – partners on the move for democracy, transparency and exchange” program organized by the Berlin School of Journalism and financially supported by the German Federal Foreign Office.