Future Story Lab is progressing to support local investigative journalism

2020-12-06

Vilnius/Trnava, 03.11.2020

Future Story Lab, a joint project of the National Institute for Social Integration (NISI, Lithuania) and European Dialogue (Slovakia) which has been funded by the European Commission, is moving forward in spite of challenges posed by the current pandemic. The project team is focusing on online tools and rethinking realisation of physical elements of the project to ensure that it can achieve its aims and be sustainable. The process takes time, but you can already look forward to seeing more updates with positive news on websites of NISI and European Dialogue very soon.

Platform for Media and Their Audiences

Using online tools, organising local or international events, and providing mentoring to both aspiring and experienced media makers, the Future Story Lab will be representing prominent opportunities for professional development, networking, collaboration, exchange, and easier access to innovative and interactive tools or methods in the media sector, primarily at a local level. It will also contribute to establishing or reinforcing connections between media and their audiences, notably through engaged journalism tools and methods. The Local Investigative Journalism Fund will be supporting teams collaborating on local investigations, and excellence in this field will be ultimately acknowledged by the Future Story Award.

Physical trainings, match-making events for journalists, and meetings had to be postponed until beginning of the next year. However, development of the Media4Change platform providing virtual space for learning, mentoring, networking, audience engagement, and high-quality media production is progressing. Design and structure are almost ready, which means that the coding will commence in a short time. Since one tool is not integrated in the main platform, it is already available.

The Hot Lead

The National Institute for Social Integration also partners with the Lithuanian Investigative Journalism Centre „Siena” to create the most comprehensive public database in Lithuania. It has been launched at the beginning of October 2020 under the name “Karštos pėdos”, which means “hot lead” and can be literally translated as “hot feet”. Available in both Lithuanian and English, it is providing quick and easy insights into how politicians, high-ranking civil servants, and business are interconnected. Through powerful graph visualisation tool Linkurious, the „Karštos pėdos“ also visualises how national and EU funds are used.

As a combination of various and so far separated databases and a visualisation of the data analysis results, this innovative tool helps journalists to make their investigations and analyses much faster, but still accurately, and saves their time. In order to help authors to make the database even better, everyone is invited to send notifications of potential bugs or general feedback to info@karstospedos.lt.

Networking Opportunities During Pandemic

Despite impracticability of face-to-face meetings, the project coordinators met representatives of the European Commission and other projects supported under the Media freedom and investigative journalism call for proposals, as they attended the online gathering on 22 September 2020. It was an excellent opportunity to explore other great projects, network, and agree on meeting in person when it’s possible again. Since the meeting was successful, the representative of the European Commission already confirmed that they will organise more events like this.

In order to support visibility of all supported projects, the European Commission created their profiles on its official website and a list called “Media Freedom Projects” on @MediaEU.

New Publishing Platform

The project team is currently finalising preparations of the media hub for journalists – from Lithuania for now, but later also from Slovakia and other countries – who will investigate socially important or even sensitive topics related to marginalised groups. They will work directly for NISI and produce media content on a regular basis. Media4Change platform will include a website for publishing the investigations and interacting with an audience through engaged journalism tools (SecureDrop or those similar to some e-participation tools used to connect public authorities and citizens). It will be interconnected with other functionalities of the platform that support learning, networking, and collaborations. Reportages supported through the Local Investigative Journalism Fund will be published on this website as well.

Last but not least, NISI is looking for Lithuanian journalists to join its team. The deadline is on 17 November and interested journalists can find more information and application form on this website. European Dialogue will complete its team carrying out the Future Story Lab at the end of November.

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The Media4Change – Future Investigative Story Lab has been established and run by the National Institute for Social Integration (Media4Change programme) from Lithuania and European Dialogue from Slovakia. The pilot activities will take place in the Czech Republic and Latvia as well.

It has been co-funded by the European Commission – DG CONNECT – under the 2019 call for proposals “Media freedom and investigative journalism” (Pilot Project: Supporting investigative journalism and media freedom in the EU).

This article represents the views of the authors only and is their sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for the use that may be made of the information contained in this article.

Cover photo: 6689062, pixabay.com