In addition to editing the news at DigBoston and writing Media Farm each week, I work with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, which helps fund some of the harder-hitting stuff in these pages. At BINJ we’re trying to serve media makers in addition to publications and readers, and as such we first need to know with whom exactly we are working, what they need, and the kind of reporting they hope to produce, among other things. That was the general idea, and those were some of the questions we had on the brain while writing and conducting our first ever survey of freelancers in Greater Boston, the results of which we just made public this week.
As we expected, there is a wide range of experience levels and skill sets in our mix, from researchers and print journalists to TV and radio producers. Though there appears to be a troubling lack of diversity in some areas, particularly race and ethnicity, our local news ecosystem does have dedicated troopers representing various ages and backgrounds and living from the Quincy shoreline to the hills of Somerville.
Overall, there aren’t too many surprises. More than 90 percent of the 100 respondents were white, 70 percent went to college in the Greater Boston area with more than half studying communications, they like to primarily write articles but also shoot videos and photos, and for the most part make peanuts considering the number of hours they work. On the bright side, there are still a lot of places in the Hub buying articles, with at least 50 outlets cutting freelance checks.
We will be using all of the research to help guide BINJ forward; for example, we now have a much better idea about just how much money news organizations are paying, and plan on working even harder now to help supplement those payments wherever it’s possible. Furthermore, BINJ plans on being an active participant in the conversation about diversity in Boston media, and on joining the growing network of media makers and independent news outlets nationwide in which people are discussing, at long last, the importance of making sure tomorrow’s journalists come from all walks of life.
Finally, while the survey is geared toward helping BINJ help reporters, and does not necessarily serve as an accurate picture of the Greater Boston media landscape, we do encourage media students, editors, and anyone else to use the results in any positive way possible. All the raw data can be easily downloaded, and there are more than two-dozen colorful charts, graphs, and images available for your perusal at binjonline.org.