More sources of support
MAY IS traditionally seen as the month of merriment. For journalists being furloughed or made redundant it has so far given us a daily drip-feed of depressing industry news. BuzzFeed News, Quartz and Vice have announced job losses and more will surely follow before the month is out.
The NUJ has been standing up for freelances since time immemorial, but the economic impact of covid-19 has swelled a cohort looking for advice on pitching stories, job opportunities, chasing money owed to them and workers' rights.
For so long the poor people of the journalism profession, freelances are mobilising and getting vocal. Many new support groups, newsletters and podcasts have sprung up to adjust to the "new abnormal".
Lily Canter and Emma Wilkinson have set up the Freelancing for Journalists podcast which "will guide you through everything you need to know about working for yourself". A book is due in July.
Anna Codrea-Rado has started a newsletter about her experience of losing her job and "striking out on her own" in 2017. The Professional freelance is now read by thousands looking for tips and insights. Together with Tiffany Philippou, she hosts the weekly podcast Is This Working? which has recently provided solace and advice for journalists in lockdown.
Support for Freelance Journalists is a Slack group which has gained 350 members since its creation in March. Each day permanent and freelance job opportunities are posted by a four-strong voluntary admin team (full disclosure: I am one of them).
"By sharing work opportunities, holding special online events and, perhaps most importantly, offering a space where people can just enjoy a friendly chat with each other, we hope that we can all collectively pull through and help each other," says Caroline Harrap, one of the admins.
The NUJ is naturally doing its part. The London Freelance Branch held its first virtual meeting in May - attracting a staggering 73 members.
Alison Culliford, from the Paris NUJ branch, says: "many freelances are struggling because of covid-19 and the branch has been helping members with their claims for state aid designed to keep self-employed workers afloat."
There has been a distinct lack of recognition for freelances from funding bodies who've stepped in with financial help. One of the exceptions to this rule has been the European Journalism Centre, based in the Netherlands, which will be announcing the "news organisations and freelance journalists receiving funding through its Engagement Fund and the Innovation Fund in the next few weeks".