More on the Co-Director position
by Erika Owens
We’re hiring a new full-time member of the OpenNews team! We’ve set a priority deadline for applications of May 19, 2023. The application will remain open until the position is filled, but we will begin reviewing and interviewing applicants after that date, so it’s the best time to apply.
I wanted to publicly answer some questions we’ve received so far. If you have any others, please feel free to email me as well.
The position description is written very broadly by design. We expect the hiring process will be part of how we collaboratively understand how this role will fit into the team and how this re-formed team of co-directors will work.
About the position
What types of projects might this role work on?
This position would help with our existing programs, and our work as it grows and evolves. Which precise programs this person would take the lead on would depend on that person’s strengths and interests, and how they complement the rest of the team. Our current programs include:
- events (SRCCON, smaller thematic SRCCON events)
- consulting (helping with other organizations’ events, project management, organizational coaching)
- community support programs (scholarships and small grants, consulting and feedback, other support)
- research, documentation, and sharing (Source, community call, News Nerd Survey, speaking and writing about journalism tech)
- internal work (our own internal systems for technology, fundraising, planning, and more)
What type of consulting projects?
Over recent years, consulting has grown as a part of our team’s work (and our financial stability). Largely, people hire us for help with event design, planning, and facilitation. Sometimes we offer project management support for other types of projects or coaching through times of transition and change. You do not need previous experience in any of these areas to apply. We both learned about this on the job! But if you do have experience, we’re really excited to hear about it, especially since so much of what we know we learned by trial and error.
About the organization
What is OpenNews and how’d it get to this point?
OpenNews has been around since 2011 and both current members of the team have been involved in the project for over 10 years. You can check out a full overview of our history, but in short: Our work has evolved from helping place technologist fellows at large news organizations to supporting a network of people working to transform journalistic practice at organizations of all sizes, both through technology and through creating equitable, welcoming cultures of belonging. We love to help people learn together as peers, find ways to resist hierarchy, design for inclusion, and, whenever we can, build in elements that spark delight or joy.
What is the team like?
Right now, we’re a team of two full-time staff. We both came to this work from local newsrooms and bring our prior experience into this work, whether it be tinkering with Django or drafting grant reports. Our work is informed by community feedback and is designed to generate more opportunities for community members to take leadership of the work as well.
One of the members of our team will be taking a leave of absence for the 2023-24 academic year, so we expect this hiring process may result in hiring two new people to expand the team and replace this absence. We see this as a chance to blend the experiences of longtime staff with new team members.
How do you think this co-director structure will work? What’s your workload like as a small team?
We’re really excited to explore this together! As our work has evolved, it has become more and more clear that building our strengths as a team of generalists will help us wrangle multiple projects at the same time and build resilience into our structure. If we’re working roughly interchangeably, shouldn’t our titles reflect that? That’s the idea, which is also inspired by exposure to cooperative structures and other modes of more democratic workplaces.
The hope is that this resilience will also help manage workloads across the team. We try hard to schedule projects with distance from each other and give time to rest after intensive periods of work. Day to day, we try to avoid last-minute deadlines as much as we can and to check in explicitly about capacity as we take on new projects.
What are your aspirations for OpenNews and this role?
Both of us feel honored to get to support an incredible community through this work! Every time we hear that someone got some editing feedback or a job lead or a pick-me-up note from someone they met through OpenNews, it makes our day!
We’re invested in relationships, in fostering the personal connections that power the journalism ecosystem and through that enable collective efforts for change. Our hope is that by modeling more egalitarian ways of working, it’ll demonstrate it’s possible (and successful) to work together in this way.
How does funding work for OpenNews? How secure is it?
We actually follow that “multiple funding streams” advice funders are always giving. The largest portions of our funding come from consulting income, grants, and events (ticket sales and sponsorships). We also have an amazing group of individual sustaining donors, and do roughly annual donation campaigns.
This mix of funding gives us some resilience. As one area decreases, we can try to ramp up work in another area. In addition, OpenNews is fiscally sponsored, which means that we pay a flat percentage on all of our income and receive a whole suite of backoffice support like HR, finance, and accounting. This also gives us flexibility to scale down or grow more quickly than if we had an additional staff position for that work no matter what our budget size.
How does inclusion and equity show up in how you work?
The biggest way it shows up is by setting up processes and procedures to move from intention to the actual impact we hope to see. We start with listening, seek out strategies for how to do our work better, and make adjustments when we miss the mark. This is a huge part of how we organize our programs, from keeping track of who participates to how we alleviate barriers to participation. We also partner with organizations led by marginalized communities and work together with folks who are already doing work we’re entering into. Staff have done self education and anti-racist workshops, which have influenced how we work and guide our organization to not default to white supremacy culture in how we operate. We also give each other time, space, and support as needed when dealing with personal and health matters, and when what’s going on in the world takes its toll.
About the position setup
Can you hire people outside of the US or sponsor visas?
Unfortunately, we cannot. Our project is fiscally sponsored by Community Partners, and in consulting with their HR staff, we are not currently in a position to sponsor visas to work in the US or to have staff based outside of the US. It is not possible to make exceptions to this.
When do you need someone to be able to start by?
The ideal scenario is for us to be able to make an offer in early-mid July and for the person to be able to join later in the month or in August. One member of the current team is heading out on a fellowship in September, and we really want there to be as much overlap as possible to ensure a smooth transition and welcome for the new folks.
How’s the work/life balance? How does remote work work? Can you work something other than full-time hours?
Since we’ve been an all-remote team for over a decade, we’re really comfortable with it and have a pretty flexible way of working. We communicate largely through Slack, and audio-only calls are our default rather than video. Aside from during live events, our work basically never has breaking news style deadlines or responsibilities.
Travel requirements continue to shift as pandemic life evolves, but there’s likely to be 2-3 required trips for conferences a year, with most people opting for 1-2 more trips as time allows and interests dictate.
In terms of hours, this is another area where we are flexible. This job is planned to be 40 hours/full time, but we’re open to other setups. We have experience with team members working different numbers of hours and/or working on a single-project basis, so we wouldn’t be figuring it out for the first time.
We hope this clarifies a few key details about the role and the work! If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me as well.
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