Part of being transparent is ensuring that everyone is appropriately credited for work on a story/project. There is an effort these days to ensure more equitable crediting, but there is still work to be done. When it comes to community-engaged journalism or empowerment journalism, crediting may also extend beyond your reporting team and include acknowledgements to those from the community who helped you find, shape, create the story.
It is important to have these conversations early and often. It is everyone’s job to ensure transparency: media organizations, reporters, editors, etc. You must communicate effectively so everyone knows:
- What their job is
- How much credit they will receive
- What kind of editorial input they will have
- How much, how often, and when they will be paid
- Anything else that is needed to communicate a fair and equitable working environment
Credit contributors. If someone contributed to your project or story, give them credit. Discuss with your team and editors ahead of time what type of crediting language to use and how prominent it will be within the story. If you are using an empowerment approach, consider how you might provide credit in a story: do they have an editorial role? A special thanks? An advisory role? And so on. By opening up credits it not only ensures that people receive appropriate recognition for their work, it also promotes transparency with your audience.
When the pandemic hit during production, said The Territory director Alex Pritz, none of the foreign crew were allowed in Uru-eu-wau-wau territory. “So we said, ‘Okay, of course we respect that. We want to figure out how we could keep filming, this feels like an important part of your story. How do you guys think we can do that?’ They said, ‘Send us more cameras, send us better cameras, send us professional audio equipment, we can handle it.’
We did contactless drops. We would bring sanitized cameras to the edge of the territory, they would come, pick it up, and return with hard drives of footage they’d shot. And we did that for a full year. We didn’t enter their territory while they shot, produced, and managed footage for all this stuff — major parts of the film.
And so with them taking on all this producing work, we said, ‘Okay, let’s push this even further and not just have it be creatively participatory, but let’s treat you guys the way we would any other production company that would be on this film… they became part of the back end of the film equal to any other production company we were working with — same exact terms. The idea of ownership was a super important part of it.”
- Put it in writing. Provide clear documentation at the start of a project. This should outline how and when a contributor, community member etc. will be credited. Use specific language and agree on the crediting ahead of time (this means titling, links out, position of the credit in the story (byline vs. end-credit etc.). This helps ensure transparency and informed consent. This may seem like a straight-forward piece of advice, but often it doesn’t happen, or it happens too late. Written documentation helps to ensure that agreements are not just promises, but are formal obligations.