UGA extends a life line to freelancers


Freelance and contract journalists looking for training and support services would do well to direct their attention to the University of Georgia's Independent Journalists Resource Coalition (IJRC).

The IJRC held its initial training seminar January 23 at UGA’s Lawrenceville campus with a program called “A Future in Freelance Journalism: 10 Steps to Build a Financial Foundation and Sell Yourself.” The workshop, which generated so much interest that available seating filled up and there was a waiting list to attend, covered such important topics as how to use your passion and your contacts to begin building a business, licensing and other requirements to launch a business, different types of companies that freelancers and contractors can create, mitigating risks, developing a business plan, managing finances and creating pitches to prospective clients.

Individual workshop sessions were led by two veteran and independent journalists, Lori Johnston of FastCopy News Service, and Bob Sullivan, an investigative journalist and a New York Times best-selling author, and Laura Katz, area director of the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The IJRC is is based at the University of Georgia journalism school, specifically, the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Founding partners include the

the National Press Photographers Association and UGA’s SBDC. The IJRC partnered with the Atlanta Press Club to host the event and plans to work with the group on future training events.

Launched last April, the initiative is a recognition that in an era of shrinking newsrooms more and more Americans are getting their news from different voices. The IJRC also recognizes that the growing legion of freelance and contract journalists are important voices in reporting news but that they lack the tools, training and protection of traditional media organizations as well as experience in setting up and running a small business. One of the primary goals of the IJRC is to provide them with the support they need to be successful. The IJRC plans to do that by building an online clearinghouse of training and support services and offer in-person training for journalists working as freelancers and contractors.

The meeting in Lawrenceville was a first step toward that in-person training of freelancers and contractors and to identify and address the most pressing needs of this community of journalists. It may not rank in historical importance as the first step onto the moon by Neil Armstrong on July 21, 1969 – "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" – but in the chaotic media landscape of 2018 it was a truly significant step for writers and photographers who are struggling to make it on their own as they seek to provide a valuable service in collecting and disseminating accurate information the public so desperately needs.

"Empowering independent journalists for success is an important part of our industry outreach efforts," said Keith Herndon, who kicked off the program in Lawrenceville and is the director of the Cox Institute and coordinator of the training program. "This initial training session was strongly received and tells us there is a need for more programs." He said the next session will focus on legal issues confronting freelancers. A date will be set before the end of February.

Two bits of advice for that next session. The first is for anyone planning to attend. Register early! The second is for the UGA organizers. Since seating was limited for the initial workshop and filled up, is there any way you could you find a bigger room for the next event? You are filling a very important need and doing that really well. Thank you for that!

I am so glad I attended. Not only did I learn a lot, but I made several important new contacts and even got a writing gig from one of those new contacts. That’s a combination that’s pretty hard to beat!

For more information about joining or supporting the IRJC, contact Herndon at klhern@uga.edu.

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