Democratising the Game of Bylines in India

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November 12, 2020

“The purpose of starting 101 Reporters was to make sure that grassroots-reporters get the opportunities to tell stories that matter. Too often we see that any story, take any big story, I mean all big stories come from major cities: Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore. But it doesn't mean that nothing major is happening in India's villages. 67% of our 1.3 billion population lives in villages,” says Hemant Gairola, the News Editor at 101 Reporters, a network of freelance journalists that brings together hinterland reporters and big media houses. Hemant has been with the organisation since its inception and has gone through many roles in the last five years. He started as a reporter. Now he acts as a bridge between 101Reporters and their partner publications.

A 101Reporters story starts with a journalist from their networks pitching a story to the editors. Once a story gets approved, it’s then pitched to the partner publications. When a publication calls dibs on a story, the journalist is notified and the reporting begins. 101Reporters has now started publishing stories even on their own website:

These stories get carried from the heartland to big platforms, with the journalist looped in the process throughout. It works for the publishers as they save on logistics and coordination. And it’s a great way for the rural stories and storytellers to find an established platform. In five years, they have told around 5,200 stories.

“But of course, there are story ideas that fail to pass muster or are simply not good enough, they kill right at the start. We reply to the reporters and we give them reasons, ‘that okay, for so and so reason, we are not approving your story ideas.’ And this is one of those parts where I think we stand apart from most of the publishers,” Hemant adds. Even after 101 Reporters approve a story pitch, not every story gets picked up by publishers. And that’s why to bridge this gap, they recently started their own website to publish stories that are important, that need to be told and which may not get picked up by publishers.

Hemant also has a piece of quick advice for freelancers as we delve into the success rate of freelance pitches. “There are enough opportunities out there; might not be easy to crack them. But of course, there [are] so many publications out there [that] if you just keep trying everywhere, there is something that you will crack. And of course, the rule in the freelance world is: keep trying, keep trying, keep trying. Don’t allow yourself to get demoralized,” he says as he highlights that there are ample prospects; one should just know where to look. And according to him, Twitter is a great place to start.

From Firstpost in India to Mongabay in the International circuit, 101 Reporters have a circuit of 50+ publishers across current affairs, politics, environment, business, tourism, development, health and more, their network currently covers all beats except sports, entertainment and lifestyle.

101 Reporters plays an important role in the journalism ecosystem. The organisation has a pan India network of 2,273 grassroots reporters who are equipped to report a holistic story from the interiors of the country. And they’re constantly adding journalists to their network. You can sign up to join their network here:

Find the full conversation's transcript here.


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