The Washington Post Built a Social Network For Freelancers

The Washington Post is streamlining their freelancer process with the development of a social network specifically designed to orchestrate a hub of stringers spread throughout the world. The company debuted The Washington Post Talent Network back in June that is described as part social network and job board.

The network gives all editors a universal system of freelancers that they can work with, making it easier to choose stringers that have particular beats. It’s an aggregated system where editors can post assignments and freelancers can pitch story ideas.

It streamlines the entire system, giving editors an ever-expanded rolodex. Instead of one editor having a handful of freelancers to choose from, all of those freelancers are now available to the entire Washington Post staff.

Writers who sign up for the network are encouraged to create a profile, a sync their Linkedin account to give editors an idea of what their particular specialties are.  According to the Washington Post, some of the basic features include:

  • Freelancer profiles, detailing professional experience and expertise and including work samples. Freelancers can import information from LinkedIn to save time and effort.
  • Story pitching, allowing freelancers to tailor ideas to every department and for individual editorial initiatives, including blogs.
  • Assignment posting, letting freelancers consider stories we wish to pursue.
  • Location tracking, ensuring editors know freelancers’ primary work locations, allowing quick deployment for breaking news.

The idea was the brainchild of associate editor Anne Kornblut, who designed the network while working as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Standford University. Part of her job at the Post involved orchestrating a team of freelancers to write blog posts, breaking news and features.

“It can be really hard to find the right freelancer, especially during breaking news, tracking them down can be very difficult,” Kornblut said during an interview with NiemanLab.

The network was built by the Post’s director of strategic initiatives, Jeremy Gilbert, and engineers Greg Grieff and Jessica Witmer. Former Post reporter, Eva Rodriguez, will oversee the project. The team felt as though it was time to bring the freelancing process into the 21st century and make things a little easier on both editors and stringers. In the past, freelancers would generally have specific relationships with one or two editors and pitching would take place over email. Editors would build their freelancing arsenal over time, but the process wasn’t efficient. Now, there is one place that editors can go to find the right freelancer for whatever story they need covered, and freelancers don’t have to spend endless hours crafting pitch emails that may or may not be returned.

NeimanLab also conducted a Q&A with Kornblut about how the social network will work, and how it will differ from how the Post has operated in the past. You can find it here.

About Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn is a recent graduate from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in The Buffalo News, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times 'Fort Greene Local', The Daily Meal, and FoxNews.com.
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