November 10 2020
Future Story Lab is progressing to support local investigative journalism

The creation of the Future Story Lab, an innovative platform aiming to build the capacity of journalists and media makers, and to create a space for professional networking and collaboration for quality media production, is progressing.

Future Story Lab is progressing to support local investigative journalism

The creation of the Future Story Lab, an innovative platform aiming to build the capacity of journalists and media makers, and to create a space for professional networking and collaboration for quality media production, is progressing.

This platform is set to provide learning and mentoring opportunities for media makers, in that way strengthening local investigative journalism. This October, the first interactive database, exposing interests of politicians, high-ranking civil servants, and the use of publicmoney has been introduced as part of the project, providing an innovative tool for journalists helping them to unveil the interests of those in power.

Media4Change of The National Institute for Social Integration (Lithuania) and European Dialogue (Slovakia), implementing this project, continue to build the Future Story Lab, that is also going to launch a pilot project of engaged journalism – a publishing platform, where the audience can engage in media content creation, focusing on regional issues and taking an interactive and innovative approach to local journalism. Such pilot projects are going to be implemented in Lithuania and Slovakia.

The idea of the Future Story Lab is built on the three main pillars: creating a platform for media and audience engagement, integrating innovative tools and methods to strengthen investigative journalism, and launching a new media platform, that would be based on the principles of engaged journalism

Platform for media and audience engagement

Using online tools, organising local or international events, and providing mentoring to both aspiring and experienced media makers, the Future Story Lab will provide prominent opportunities for professional development, networking, and collaboration. It will also provide an access to innovative and interactive tools and methods in the media sector, primarily at a local level. Establishing or reinforcing connections between media and their audiences through a practice engaged journalism is a key aspect in launching such a platform. The Local Investigative Journalism Fund will be supporting teams collaborating on local investigations. The best investigative stories will be acknowledged by the Future Story Awards.

Professional training, match-making events for journalists, and meetings in person had to be postponed until beginning of the next year, due to the pandemic. As physical engagement remains a challenge, Media4Change offers a solution by creating a safe virtual space for learning, mentoring, networking, audience engagement, and high-quality media production within the development of its new online platform. The platform is at the last stages of construction and will soon be launched and presented to the public.

An interactive tool to raise transparency

As a part of this project, an interactive tool “Karstos pedos”, which can be literally translated as “hot feet”, was launched in October. The National Institute for Social Integration partnering with the Lithuanian Investigative Journalism Centre “Siena” launched this tool to raise transparency by collecting and publishing public declarations of politicians, high-ranking civil servants, showing their interests in businesses, as well as their ties with public money. Through a powerful graphic visualization tool Linkurious, “Karstos pedos” also demonstrates how national and EU funds are used.

This tool has brought more innovation in the practice of investigative journalism, as it provides a combination of various public databases that were published separately, creating a visual representation of their interconnection. The database “Karstos pedos” open to public access, is available in both Lithuanian and English.

In order to help creators to make the database even better, everyone is invited to send notifications of potential bugs or general feedback to [email protected].

New publishing platform

The project team is currently finalising preparations of the media hub for journalists – starting from Lithuania, later expanding to Slovakia and other countries. Journalists within the hub 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 the audience through engaged journalism tools (SecureDrop, and some other 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. Media content production will be supported through the Local Investigative Journalism Fund and will be published on the platform.

Media4Change is currently looking for Lithuanian journalists, editors, media analysts, community leaders, and other interested candidates to join its team. The deadline to apply: November 23, 2020. All interested candidates can find the application form and more information on this website. The European Dialogue will complete its team carrying out the Future Story Lab at the end of November.

Work to support media freedom and investigative journalism

The project coordinators met the European Commission and representatives of other projects supported under the Media Freedom and Investigative Journalism call for proposals, as they attended an online gathering on 22 September 2020. It was an excellent opportunity to get to know more about other projects, the network. It was agreed that a meeting in person is going to follow, when possible. As the online meeting was successful, the representative of the European Commission already confirmed that they will organise more events like this.

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

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 to support cooperation, innovations, professional standards, and ultimately increase quality of content in the field of investigative journalism in Lithuania and Slovakia. The pilot activities will take place in the Czech Republic and Latvia as well.

The whole project 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).

Disclaimer: The European Commission’s support for the production of this article does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views of the authors only and are their sole responsibility. The Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.