Director, Program on Independent Journalism

  • Executive-level, Full-time staff position
  • Posted on 18 June 2019

Job Description

Independent journalism uncovers, verifies and interprets reality. When it also engages audiences and communities it elicits the self-reflection and critical thinking any open society requires. The last year has seen unprecedented attacks on journalism, laying bare how much it matters. A record 262 journalists were jailed in 2017 and 60 have been killed so far in 2018. Governments that have traditionally defended press freedom globally are now attacking independent media.

The toughest challenge facing journalism, however, is to stay true to its core public service while navigating the stormy waters of digital disruption. These have eroded media revenue, brand and editorial control, all which have resulted in diminished quality and public trust. Yet despite the challenges, many producers of quality journalism flourish in different shapes around the world, networking and collaborating to enhance their capacity and impact.

Posting date: June 18, 2019

The strategic aim of the Open Society Foundations (OSF)’s Program on Independent Journalism (PIJ) is to find those pushing the field into new terrain and journey with them along this uncertain path, making sure that our questions and our support help them keep an open mind and an entrepreneurial spirit.

To accomplish its goals the Program has four portfolios of work:

1. Support efforts to build a free and safe environment for journalism;

2. Help investigative journalism collectives to network, collaborate and build technical expertise;

3. Support creative journalistic initiatives wherever quality information is scarce, so that they can take root, engage citizens and grow at the dynamic pace promised by digital technology

4. Support initiatives that are producing and/or sharing innovation in the journalism field.

Job Profile:

OSF is looking for a new director to lead the work and staff of OSF’s Independent Journalism Program. The director is responsible for shaping strategy; identifying major shifts and trends and shaping the program’s goals and portfolios accordingly; overseeing grant-making to more than a hundred organizations every year; building and maintaining communications within OSF and with other philanthropies; and leading and managing the development and growth of a team of 14 staff. The director is expected to bring innovative thought leadership and conceptualize the ways OSF can support the field as a grant-maker and advocate, catalyzing networks and spotting and promoting pioneering work.

Programmatically, the new director will be expected to utilize a keen understanding of current challenges in press freedom and journalists’ safety, not only on a global level, but also in a particular region or country. The director must be a seasoned and respected professional, familiar and/or engaged with the major organizations and networks advancing independent journalism globally. She or he will also need to have a superb grasp of the ever-changing landscape for digital journalism and the impact of technology on media. Excellent understanding and experience of internet governance and digital platform regulation is required.

The work of PIJ intersects with that of many of OSF’s other regional and thematic programs and the director maintains overall responsibility for identifying and nurturing opportunities for collaboration across these, as well as with the network’s national foundations. As a member of OSF’s Senior Leadership Group, she/he not only leads the work of the Program on Independent Journalism but is responsible for maintaining and strengthening the institutional, programmatic, and financial integrity of OSF as a whole.

The role includes a significant leadership dimension, including coaching colleagues from a rich and diverse array of backgrounds and managing cross-department, cross-program projects in a manner that encourages clear communication and respectful colleagueship. Building good relationships is critical for the job. This requires the development and nurturing of trust within internal and external fields, across cultures and geographies in which competing interests, complex political and cultural factors, and tensions between long and short-term goals must be managed effectively.

The Program Director’s role includes the following activities:

  • Oversees the delivery of PIJ’s strategy, incorporating the expertise of the program’s dedicated and experienced staff and setting the vision for major strategic reviews
  • Communicates and shares views with diverse actors within OSF and across the field, ranging from global donors and freedom of expression advocates to legacy media editors in many countries, experts on technology, reporters and local defenders of journalists
  • Champions the fundamental importance of independent journalism in advancing open societies in the public sphere, by participating in conferences and interviews or publishing articles on the subject
  • Orients the program’s portfolios to make sure they fit the strategic ends, and ensures that teams develop new concepts in response to changing circumstances
  • Works at pace to coordinate responses from OSF to emerging crises in rapidly deteriorating environments for journalists in a country specific context or on the contrary, to capitalize on opportunities a democratic opening can offer for journalism to flourish
  • Gets to know organizations in the field, approves assessments of potential grantee organisations and major grants and solves any problems that later emerge
  • Together with the team, designs the budget plans, presents them to senior stakeholders, oversees spending and provides the rationale for significant spending changes
  • Oversees performance and quality control for all internal policies and processes related to grant making
  • Negotiates complex and divergent stakeholder interests, often with significant political/cultural sensitivities
  • Helps the team develop their talent and expertise and enables them to work in a good and fruitful environment
  • Manages complex and sometimes highly sensitive relationships , including relationships with other OSF Programs, external organizations, PIJ’s Advisory Board and OSF’s Global Board
Candidate Profile:
  • Personal and professional alignment to the core mission and values of building an open society and in excess of 15 years’ progressively responsible experience as a journalist or editor. Preferably related practice as a defender of freedom of expression.
  • Experience as an entrepreneur in journalism or related areas, able to demonstrate first-hand knowledge of challenges and opportunities for start-up media organizations and/or NGOs defending freedom of expression.
  • Considered a thought leader and recognized as an independent journalist, familiar with current social, technological and political challenges facing the field.
  • Ability to leverage relationships with actors in the field in order to further programmatic goals.
  • Prior management experience and proven success in developing cohesive teams (small or big) and growing the professional capacities of team members.
  • Demonstrable experience in leading complex enterprises and sustaining relationships with highly diverse actors, while keeping course towards strategic goals
  • Experience in planning, managing budgets and disciplined spending
  • Able to exercise creative leadership in projects and programs of substance, with expertise in creating new and innovative practices for improving team performance
  • Values cultural differences and human diversity
  • Experience of having lived or worked in multiple geographies, particularly including within the Global South, preferred.
  • Excellent English language skills, with additional languages strongly preferred
  • Willing to undertake frequent travel, up to approximately 30% of work hours

Competitive rates of pay apply.

About the Organization

We are strengthened by the diversity of our colleagues across the Open Society Foundations. We welcome applications from people of all cultures, backgrounds, and experiences, and are committed to providing reasonable adjustments so that colleagues with disabilities are able to fulfill the essential functions of the job.

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