On Spec: An independent global journalism podcast
Long form, personalized, news and storytelling from the field
On Spec: An independent global journalism podcast
Long form, personalized, news and storytelling from the field
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Fri, October 4 2019 1:44 PM UTC +00:00.
On Spec is a platform for independently produced long form documentary storytelling in a bi-weekly podcast. We’re a team of eight freelance journalists from diverse backgrounds, living across the globe, who pursue stories because we care about them and know that they deserve a wider audience.
What is On Spec?
Journalism today is in crisis. People are losing trust in the media. There is a lack of quality, in-depth reported audio journalism, especially focused on global stories. We're aiming to fix that by showing how and why we cover the stories we do.
There's no shortage of news out there in the world — but when we're inundated with it, it can be hard to see what matters. There are a lot of podcasts out there, but a lot of them are just talk.
We want to combine the best of both.
We have years of experience reporting, often on shoestring budgets or without big organizations backing us. Our name ‘On Spec’ comes from that ethos: to report a story ‘on spec’ means to report it without a guarantee of publication. You report the story because you believe in it, not because you’re going to get a paycheck.
The idea for a podcast came when we were all getting lunch in Istanbul, and talking about how we felt like there is a gap in the media; the in-depth, global, personal stories we are passionate about seemed harder and harder to sell.
It seems like every day we hear about another outlet shutting down, or laying off staff, or cutting back on reporting to cover let's say...someone's latest tweet?
If you’re like us, you think we’re missing important stories, and growing more disconnected from the world— and want to do something about it. We believe that global news matters at home, so we’re producing the stories that go beyond just America. We’re bringing you unvarnished, independent, field reporting that goes beyond clickbait.
But to do this work, we need your help.
Our pitch to you
Our stories are reported by journalists who speak the language, and understand the cultures they’re working on covering. Our stories not only focus on the people at the heart of global stories, but take you behind the scenes of how the news gets made. We’re your own personal translator, taking you on a journey around the world.
We’ve chosen topics based on our passions, expertise, and that personal connection that drives us to get closer to the story. The podcast will feature honest discussions from reporters that aim to pull back the curtain on how the news gets made.
Our approach combines a personal, human connection with fair and quality journalism that you can trust because we show you what goes into it.
We've produced and will be releasing eight episodes, each featuring a full-length documentary report from the field – just like you’d hear on NPR or BBC World News.
But that’s not where the story ends. We won't just tell you the news, but we’ll also give you the backstory, the context, and the nuts & bolts of how the reporting was done. Our goal is to give listeners a better understanding – and, we hope – appreciation for how the news is made, and what makes freelance journalism different.
So far in Season Zero
Özge Sebzeci brings you the inside story of what it's like to be a journalist in Turkey today. With hundreds of your colleagues in prison, how do you continue reporting?
Oscar Durand brings you the story of a Bolivian street musician in Istanbul, who like the rest of us, wonders where the years have gone and what he will do with his life.
Shawn Carrié brings you a story of the climate crisis -- by transporting you to Iraq, where a water shortage led to massive protests in a country still reeling from war.
Pesha Magid travels to the outskirts of Anbar, where average farmers are trying to outrun and outsmart the last remnants of Islamic State to hunt for Iraq's tastiest hidden delicacies — the desert truffle.
Umar Farooq reports on how activists in Pakistan's tribal areas decided that the War on Terror won't be solved with bombs and drone strikes, but giving people the basic human rights they've been denied for more than a century..
Margaux Benn travels from Afghanistan’s “wild west” to its capital, Kabul… Because of the war, archaeologists can’t reach most areas, leaving artefacts - some dating back to the 4th century BC and Alexander the Great - at the mercy of looters who export them to countries like Dubai.
And Alisa Reznick reports from Arizona on how one city’s complex history of cross-border migration is shaping its present.
Who are we?
Fariba Nawa • Host /Istanbul: Mother of two inquisitive and rambunctious girls, Fariba has been covering global news for 20 years from places like Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey. She is also a speaker and author of the book Opium Nation: Child Brides, Drug Lords and One Woman’s Journey through Afghanistan.
A native Afghan, Fariba’s fluent in Farsi/Dari and can get by in Arabic and Turkish. Some recent work can be found in the New Yorker, PRI, and the Financial Times.
Margaux Benn /Kabul: Margaux is a French and Canadian multimedia journalist. She has been based in Paris, Sudan, Kenya and the Central African Republic. In the beginning of 2018, after two years as a video editor with AFP’s Middle-East and North Africa bureau in Cyprus, she left her desk job to settle in Afghanistan as a freelancer. She is a correspondent for Le Figaro; the TV networks France 24 and Arte; and the French radio Europe 1 — and occasionally files for other media.
Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Al-Jazeera, Foreign Policy, Le Figaro, Le Temps and others.
Shawn Carrié /Istanbul: A musician in a past life, in 2015 Shawn quit his job in an office at the United Nations in New York to become a freelance foreign correspondent. Reporting stories with an eye for poetry and pain, he has written and taken photos of conflict and strife in 12 countries, including the United States.
Shawn usually reports on war and the politics of humanitarian work, but the work he’s most proud of was an unconventional refugee story told through the eyes of Syrian ex-revolutionaries who’d taken up DJing as their weapon of choice. You can read it in VICE magazine.
Oscar Durand /New York: A former engineer, Oscar is a visual journalist who has covered the global refugee crisis from Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. He has been published in NBC News, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, PRI’s The World, Catholic News Service, The Guardian, Ozy, National Geographic Traveler, and other outlets. Among other projects, Oscar is currently working on a National Geographic Explorer's Grant with Umar to tell the stories of Afghanistan's refugees.
He’s fluent in Spanish, and conversational in French and Turkish.
Umar Farooq /Istanbul: A physicist turned journalist, Umar’s reporting includes breaking news and investigative features, spanning four continents. He is a Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting grantee, and is currently working on a National Geographic Explorer's Grant with Oscar, working to tell the stories of Afghanistan's refugees. A regular reporter for The Los Angeles Times based out of Istanbul, his work has also appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, The Nation, The Intercept, National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, and The Christian Science Monitor.
Born in Pakistan and raised in New Orleans, he is fluent in Urdu and can do pretty well in Arabic and Turkish.
Pesha Magid /Baghdad: After two years in a smoky newsroom in Cairo, Pesha gave up the desk to freelance, writing extensively about refugees, gender, and conflict in Egypt, Turkey, and Iraq. Her work has appeared in outlets including Foreign Policy, The Guardian, The Daily Beast, The New York Review of Books, The Intercept, and PRI.
Pesha speaks Arabic and Spanish.
Özge Sebzeci /Istanbul: Born next to the Bosphorus, Özge’s reporting and photography reveals a seldom-seen Turkey. Özge’s work, often combining documentary and art photography, caught the eye of the Magnum Foundation which awarded her a fellowship.
Her work has appeared in National Geographic, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Huffington Post, News Deeply, NRC Handelsblad, De Standaard, and VG, among others.
She is fluent in Turkish and French.
Alisa Zaira Reznick /Phoenix: Alisa is a journalist and photographer from Flagstaff, Arizona. She has spent the last several years between the Middle East and the American Southwest documenting stories about migration, human rights, the environment, and the intersection of all three.
Her work has appeared in Al Jazeera, PBS, BBC, PRI, and TIME, among others.
Costs and why we need financing
High-quality radio journalism we are producing isn't cheap. We need equipment, from microphones to audio recorders and editing software. We need translation, voice overs, mixing...and that's not even counting the actual travel costs. Much of our reporting will be done in countries we are already familiar with -- that's part of our commitment to make sure we know what we are talking about -- but we still need to fly once in a while, or pay for land transportation, or accommodation, and other basic costs.
Where we're headed
We’ve already produced Season Zero of On Spec “on spec” (from our own pockets). That’s how freelance journalists often work: on a shoestring, out of passion for getting the story. But we’d like to expand this
With your help, Season One of On Spec will feature a completely new set of stories from freelance journalists in more countries around the world.
A few of us are professional photojournalists, so we thought it might be cool to share some of our work with you as postcards, which are only $15. Or get an 8x10" fine art print of one of our photographs from the field for $325.
We want to get the word out about On Spec and also make a statement about the state of journalism? Grab a round pin for $7, or a coffee mug with a message for $30.
For $100, get a surprise gift box from Istanbul.
For $250, we will get you started on some journalism skill with a one hour remote training session.
For $500, you can get a virtual tour with one of us to an overlooked but important part of a city we are based in.
We want this to be a dialogue, and we want to hear from you about what stories we should cover, so if you contribute $1,000 you get to be an "executive producer," and pitch us an idea for an episode for the next season.
Finally, when we say we want to bring you closer to the globe, we really mean it, so if you contribute $2,500 or more, come fly out to where we live, and we will give you a guided, in-person tour, of one of our cities. We call it the On Spec Experience.
Risks and challenges
Season Zero is already complete. Five out of eight episodes for Season Zero are ready to go. Our launch episode as well as the first episode of the season will air before this campaign ends. After that, we plan to put out one episode bi-weekly.
We will make every effort to meet the schedule we have set for ourselves, because we want these stories to be out there in the world.
But reporting from the field brings risks — like kidnapping, accidents, roadside bombs and suicide attacks. Because we are producing and mixing the podcast ourselves, there might be other delays that crop up. The place we want to go could become too dangerous, the person you need to interview could no longer be around...you get the picture.
But we are motivated, and eager to tell you about our work, so if you can help with this campaign, we are very confident you will have eight great episodes to listen to, and the start of a new season with a sound engineer and experienced radio producer.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter