NEW YORK (March 11, 2021) – The Overseas Press Club of America announced today that it has begun distributing 92 micro-grants of $1,000 each to freelance journalists around the world. This round of financial aid, the third the club has initiated in the past year, was made possible by a generous grant from the Ford Foundation.
The club conducted widespread outreach to dozens of diverse journalism organizations and communities, such as the Ida B. Wells Society, the National Association of Black Journalists, Women Photograph, Journalists in Distress and A Culture of Safety (the ACOS alliance), in order to inform freelancers of the grants’ availability. It received 307 applications from 46 countries and territories, including many of the worst-ranked on the Press Freedom Index.
“What we continue to find is that the entire ecosystem of freelancers, which major U.S. news organizations rely on, is at risk of being wiped out,” said OPC President Paula Dwyer. “The Ford Foundation’s grant has been a blessing to those we were able to help. We need to sustain those folks until the pandemic eases and they can get back to work.”
“We are proud to support the Overseas Press Club of America and freelance journalists whose livelihoods have been impacted by COVID-19 and the economic crisis,” said Juliet Mureriwa, program officer in the Office of the President of the Ford Foundation. “Journalism is central to our understanding of the world at large and supporting a robust, diverse network of international reporters is needed now more than ever.”
U.S. news organizations, having cut back their own networks of on-staff correspondents for financial reasons, in recent years have relied on thousands of freelance journalists to cover conflicts, political and social upheaval and economic changes worldwide. The freelancers were able to survive while based overseas or traveling abroad by maintaining relationships with multiple news organizations and pitching stories, photographs and videos from an entire region.
But the coronavirus forced many smaller news organizations out of business and even larger, well-established outlets to cut their freelance budgets or delay payments. Travel lockdowns curtailed the ability of freelancers to travel to where the latest stories were breaking. As a result, freelancers and their families suffered financial distress, making it difficult to pay for rent, food and medical expenses.
One micro-grant recipient, Gloria Dickie, a Canadian who specializes in climate change and environmental politics, said she had survived for years as a “digital nomad.”
But after COVID-19 hit, she said, “Like many reporters, I had foreign assignments cancelled at the onset of the pandemic and haven’t been able to replace that expected income with new assignments. At nearly a year into the pandemic, it’s taking a toll. Like many freelancers, I’d made this career financially feasible by living cheaply and moving from place to place, staying in hostels. The pandemic quickly upended that lifestyle.”
She concluded: “The OPC micro-grant is a godsend for freelancers struggling during the pandemic.”
In 2019, the OPC distributed micro-grants of $750 to approximately 50 freelance members of the club. In this latest round, membership in the OPC was not required. All nationalities were eligible as long as they could establish they had worked for an American news organization.
The grant recipients worked for a wide range of publications and news outlets, including Foreign Policy, Getty Images, the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, NPR, The New York Times, Politico, Voice of America and The Washington Post.
Winners were based in these 40 countries and territories: Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Territory, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
A panel of 14 judges from the OPC Board of Governors and partner organizations reviewed the 307 applications and used a numerical scoring system to pick the winners. “The judges did a great job in quickly sorting their way through all the issues and making these decisions,” said Dwyer. “We owe them a real debt of gratitude for their time and energy.”
The Overseas Press Club is an international association of journalists based in New York City that works to encourage the highest standards in journalism, to educate the next generation of foreign correspondents and to promote international press freedom and the well-being of colleagues in the field.