As many as 36,000 people in the news media are estimated to have either been laid off, furloughed, or suffered pay cuts since the pandemic hit the U.S. and began to damage the economy, according to the New York Times. Freelance journalists, who don’t have full-time jobs with news organizations, have also been hit hard, with one survey estimating that 80 percent of freelancers had lost at least some work by the end of April. The financial fallout in the news business is coming at the same time that Americans are desperate for news and accurate information about the two stories of overwhelming importance for the nation today: the Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide protests over police violence against African Americans.
In response, the Press Freedom Defense Fund is creating a $200,000 emergency financial assistance program for journalists impacted by the pandemic’s economic fallout.
The new fund is designed to help individual journalists struggling with the problems brought on by the pandemic and its economic impact: unemployment, illness, the needs of dependents and children, as well as the basic demands of meeting daily living expenses.
I am the director of the Press Freedom Defense Fund, which is a unit of First Look Media, the parent company of The Intercept. I personally feel passionately about the urgency of the need to help journalists in the midst of the pandemic.
This new crisis fund will offer individual journalists cash assistance up to $1,500 and will be provided in two or more waves, beginning in July. The July fund will be open for applications starting Monday, June 29, at 9 a.m. ET until Thursday, July 2 at 6 p.m. ET, or until we have received 1,000 applications. Applications will be reviewed by a volunteer committee of prominent journalists, and dates for the second wave of grants will be announced at a later time.
Those interested in applying should go to the Press Freedom Defense Fund’s website. We encourage interested journalists to apply early.