I have just come back from New York where the Frontline Club has put on its maiden US event. I was also looking into the possibility of opening a sister club along the lines of the London club.
The event we held focused on our duty, as journalists, to cover the other point of view in conflicts in which our home countries are involved. Chaired by Jon Snow and with David Loyn, who recently “embedded” with the Taliban on the panel, it was everything we hoped it would be.
As for opening a venue in New York, it could work. We will have to find suitable premises and the funds to acquire them. We will be keeping our eyes open for both.
Our events are working well and we would like to take them wherever in the world they are wanted. Success in the richest country in the world would help us sustain events in poorer ones. Frontline Russia for example currently has no income stream.
We are keenly aware that the Frontline Club can only thrive if it is both relevant and useful to its members. The Club’s real value is not in bricks and mortar but in creating relationships that benefit all.
If we can innovate in a way that supports our members, that in turn, benefits the Club and so allows us to offer more to our members. This is a virtuous circle.
We have several initiatives in the works with this end in mind.
Firstly, we have decided to start offering our events room in the daytime to members to run their own training courses. The idea is that we shoulder all the organisation and all members have to do is teach. This will allow experienced members to organise workshops and teach their skills to a new generation, creating an extra stream of income. Early next year we are launching the Frontline Club Award, which can be won by any journalist or operator, regardless of media discipline. It will be judged by a panel of Club members who will select winners that reflect Frontline values: work that made a difference, demonstrated integrity, courage and independence. Panel members will nominate the work for inclusion and the awards will recognise the best work at the sharp end of journalism.
More importantly still, we have been developing our website and during the next six months several major changes should help it become an invaluable resource.
The idea is to create a site that will become a natural home for our members on the web. A place where they can offer their services, showcase their work, post their blogs and link to their home websites. As our members post good content on our web pages we will attract ever-greater numbers of online readers and viewers who will, in turn, will be directed back to our members’ pages.
This development will benefit those of you who are on staff with major media orgnisations, offering a natural home to promote your independent work such as blogs and books. But it will especially help freelances, who we see as the lifeblood of independent journalism.
As the quantity and quality of online content at frontlineclub.com grows, we can sell advertising space on our website, redistributing the proceeds to those providing the content. In the early days this will mean members have an opportunity to develop their profile and reach far larger audiences with their electronic offerings, be they photographs, stories, videos or blogs.
As we develop and revenue streams pick up, Frontline-generated revenue should become an increasingly important source of income for our members, particularly for freelances. This effort is in tune with some of the earliest aims of Frontline. As Frontline News in the 1990s we set out to create a television news agency that championed the work of independents working in war zones.
We are now looking at developing an online news channel where individual journalists control their own content and level of participation while benefiting from associating with others who meet the highest standards of their profession. In the last half-decade the world, especially the media world, has changed enormously.
I believe that increasingly individuals will be able to win their own audiences and achieve their own income streams to support their journalism, their content and their brand. Media NGOs have a vital role to play in the community we are building and we will impove their ability to support the best journalism.
We are now close to being able to deliver the first stages of this vision for our members. and want you all to be part of it. The road ahead will not be totally smooth. We need to find more funding to be able to offer all the services we have outlined and need to generate the advertising and commissions that that will sustain the venture long-term.
But I am convinced that the vision is achievable and that supporting journaIism by strenthening the practitioner is the key to our success. We will keep you all informed of developments over the coming months.