A word from our executive director
Like people the world over, we relied on ingenuity and flexibility in tackling the unprecedented challenges of 2020.
With journalists at risk in new ways – from pandemic reporting to covering protests and insurrections – we pivoted to providing direct aid, online safety training and new learning opportunities, including resources for young journalists.
We responded to the escalating mistreatment of journalists covering social unrest with our US Emergency Fund, and we supported journalists of color with our Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund — and by speaking out against disparagement and attacks aimed at those with Asian and Pacific Island heritage.
2020 also nudged us to innovate like never before. We produced online events that were applauded for their accessibility and fostered breakthrough global collaborations — in one case, among politicians and the women journalists who cover them.
Ever-present in our thoughts are the treasured supporters, family and friends who we lost this year — especially our board chair, Bryan Monroe. This report is dedicated to him — and to our staff, fellows and grantees who despite it all, managed to reach new heights this year.
With deep gratitude for the unwavering support of our community,
Elisa Lees Muñoz, Executive Director
The IWMF community celebrated the life of Bryan Monroe, long-time supporter and IWMF Board Chair, after his passing in January. Fellow board member Hannah Allam called Bryan, “a mentor and a cheerleader, persistent in breaking racial and gender barriers in newsrooms.” We will move our work forward in your honor, Bryan.
Our Adelante program came to a close in 2020.
With 171 fellows, 6 regions and 27 reporting trips, Adelante generated close to 400 stories about life in Central America and the U.S. border that otherwise would not have been told. Fellow Amaris Castillo wrote in Poynter about what Adelante meant to her and her career; our sincere thanks to The Howard G. Buffett Foundation for making Adelante possible.
“The IWMF came along and totally changed my experiences with journalism from within. The support network that was created and the knowledge gained in just over a year has been invaluable.”
Complementing our fellowships that honor Elizabeth Neuffer and Kim Wall, our new Lauren Alix Brown Fellowship was established in 2020 and offered grants to 5 journalists. Brown was a co-founder of Quartz who died of cancer at age 37.
Finally — none of the above would be possible without our dedicated staff. As the need for our work stepped up, so did they — with compassion and despite a range of pandemic-related hardships. To our small but mighty team, thank you — we appreciate you more than we can say.
2020 was proof that collaboration can thrive even in an era of division and separation.
We launched a collaborative investigation on gender-based violence in 19 Latin American countries this year.
We formed a coalition of more than 40 organizations that offer diverse counsel and support to women journalists under attack online.
The IWMF leads the world in women-produced reporting and safety assistance. In acknowledgement, our funders offered record support in 2020, making more new programs possible than any other time in our 31-year history.
Sadly, in 2020 we saw the greatest level of need in our history as well.
Thanks to our work supporting journalists in crisis, we were able to expand quickly to help them recover from 2020’s challenges.
gave rise to an array of new funds that were tailored to the year’s unprecedented needs;
Our U.S. Journalism Emergency Fund, funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, provides direct support to U.S. journalists in need, of any gender.
Started by Sonia Weiser and administered by the IWMF in June 2020, the Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund helps cover Black journalists’ trauma-informed support and behavioral health costs
The COVID-19 Relief Fund helped meet urgent financial needs of global journalists , especially freelancers, experienced due to COVID-19 and other factors.
– and allows us to bring life-saving skills to far more journalists than in years past. In 2020 we digitally reimagined our HEFAT trainings and launched new online courses:
Custom safety programs this year included all-hands trainings for McClatchy on protest safety – and The 19th* on digital security.
aimed at NBC News journalist Brandy Zadrozny by Fox’s Tucker Carlson and his followers. The threats and doxing Zadrozny received were so toxic that she required armed security for two weeks. Fortunately, her outlet was also vocal in Zadrozny’s defense.
Few years in recent memory challenged journalists with diverse backgrounds and identities like 2020.
While our Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund helped relieve the stress that comes from covering police brutality and the daily reminders of systemic racism, women journalists also came to us for help navigating the explosion in online harassment.
In Latin America, our ¡Expresate! program – funded by Foundation for a Just Society – supported storytelling by and about women and LGBTQIA+ individuals. Sixty journalists were trained in Periodismo mas incluyenté (more inclusive journalism) and safety skills in 2019 and 2020, and in 2021-2022 the program will grow from two to four countries.
Like many beats, political reporting is dominated by men. In the lead-up to the U.S. election, we convened a cohort of 9 women campaign correspondents from outlets such as Axios, The New York Times and The Hill to share their experiences and show why women’s voices were critical to the 2020 election. More than half were promoted following their work on the 2020 campaign beat.
In the second year of our Gwen Ifill Mentorship Program, we provided 15 diverse women journalists from across the U.S. with mentorship and career support. The program is made possible by CBS Corporation’s Grant for Equity in Reporting.
It’s one thing to reimagine how you operate; it’s another to grow your impact while doing so.
Our grantees and fellows produced nearly 100 groundbreaking stories — like Errin Haines’ piece in USA Today: The Pandemic is Political, and Women are Angry at the President, published in partnership with The 19th. Or Valeria Fernández and Karen Coates’ podcast for NPR, The Migrant Student Club. Or Ylenia Gostili’s piece, The Domestic Workers Fleeing Modern Slavery in the UK, which ran in Al Jazeera.
In August, we launched a new strategy for protecting women’s voices in public spaces. The IWMF and the National Democractic Institute partnered to connect women politicians in Kenya, Mexico and Sri Lanka with the women reporters who cover them. With support from NDI’s team and IWMF’s trainers, participants learned to deflect and handle threats and violence that are tragic elements of their jobs.
The first virtual airing of the Courage in Journalism Awards made the program accessible to journalists and supporters around the world like never before. Streamed on the Washington Post Live platform, the show recognized journalists from Finland, China, Syria and Egypt, and raised more than $30,000 for IWMF’s Emergency Fund.
It was the right time to set up our virtual Press Freedom Speaker Series as well, which attracted almost 1,000 registrants across five events. Members of our network shared insights on the missing representation of women in media, harassment culture, covering the White House and more. Recordings are available on our website and to participate in future events, please sign up for our newsletter.
Our hard work did not go unnoticed;
As people turn to new media sources, news feeds have bifurcated. What one person sees can be different from their neighbor based on their views, political leanings and any algorithms at play.
The disproportionality of what news consumers are getting grows when journalists are attacked for doing their jobs. A recent UNESCO survey found that
For those that cover disinformation, even more aggressive attacks are made by influential actors whose livelihoods may be threatened. It’s no wonder so many journalists sought our emergency and behavioral mental health support this year.
2020 saw other dangerous trends as well. 50 journalists were killed worldwide; one was beheaded, another burned alive. More were killed in countries “at peace” like Mexico and the Philippines than in previous years.
Governments used the disinformation epidemic to their advantage: Courage winner Solafa Magdy sat in pre-trial detention for 17 months, accused of terrorism and spreading “false news.” Rappler founder Maria Ressa, the subject of persistent online harassment, was ironically convicted of “cyber libel,” and currently faces up to 60 years in prison.
To rebuild trust in journalism, we must ensure consumers see themselves in the stories they read. We must tackle disinformation and digital harassment as two sides of a coin, as our Coalition Against Online Violence – funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies and Luminate – has been organized to do.
At the IWMF, we’re in on all fronts.
Sincere thanks to all our board members for their counsel and support in an unprecedented year.