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Serving as Editor in Chief of openDemocracy has been the privilege of a lifetime. I can’t wait to see where you’ll take it next

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Mary Fitzgerald
29 April 2021, 4.28pm
“It’s been an incredible adventure".
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When I joined openDemocracy as the new Editor in Chief at the ripe old age of 31, I didn’t exactly have a fully-formed plan. I hoped that we could do important journalism and I knew that, somehow, I needed to find enough cash to keep us afloat. (No mean feat in 2014, with most media business models already in deep crisis.) I wrote somewhat optimistically at the time: “To inspire people to action, you need to offer them hope – and no matter how unsurmountable a problem seems, hope can always be found if you look hard and think creatively enough.” 

I still passionately believe this. And now, stepping down almost seven years later, it seems at least some of that early optimism was justified. 

Thanks to persistence, brilliant colleagues, a bit of luck and the backing of thousands of readers, we've managed to build a team across four continents. We’ve become multilingual (Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic). Our journalism has changed the law, won court cases, prompted action from lawmakers and tech giants. It’s become the subject of a bestselling book. It has lifted voices from parts of the world where even speaking can be an act of resistance, and provided a vital space for pluralist debate. We’ve pioneered feminist investigative journalism – yes, that is a thing, and we’re changing the media with it. 

We’ve been nominated for prestigious prizes including the Paul Foot, the Orwell Prize, multiple British Journalism Awards and the Russian Redkollegia media award. Last year our stunning Rainforest Defenders Series claimed both the Gabo Award – Latin America’s most prestigious journalism prize –  and the Sony Photographer of the Year Award.

From a standing start of around 100 regular supporters, we’ve inspired tens of thousands of people to support us with donations, and hundreds of thousands to back our campaigns. (Find out more about how we’re funded – and how you can support us – and thank you, so much, to everyone who already has. You've made all the difference.)

Our stories have set the agenda and made front pages globally, from the Guardian to el Pais Brasil. I never imagined I'd have family in the US calling to say they'd seen openDemocracy in the New York Times, or that our stories would lead news bulletins on local radio across Ghana. And I certainly never thought I'd be able to persuade Fleet Street’s rival editors to agree, and sign, the same piece of paper.

It’s been an incredible adventure – from running our epic ‘whodunnit’ investigation into the DUP’s dodgy Brexit donation (spoiler: we still don’t know who did it, answers on a postcard please), to going undercover at a summit of religious lobbyists in Nairobi, to covering the US election in the middle of a pandemic. I was lucky enough to start 2021 back where I was born, in the US state of Georgia, watching a vibrant coalition of grassroots activists and visionary leaders make history

One of the things I’m most proud of is how we've invested in leadership, mentoring, training and learning from groups under-represented in the media. In the last year alone, reporting by our incredible cohort of journalism trainee fellows forced US diplomats to cut funding for COVID misinformation, exposed hate groups operating on Amazon and Paypal, got nominated for prestigious journalism prizes, and much more.

This matters, because who holds power in journalism matters. If we change the media, we change the debate. 

I’m stepping down from this dream job at the end of May to take up a new role, soon to be announced, which I hope will complement and build on all this incredible work. Our Managing Editor Julian Richards is stepping up to run our brilliant editorial team, and we're very fortunate to have Lakshmi Sundaram join us as Interim Executive Director while we recruit a new leader.

That means openDemocracy is looking for a new Editor in Chief to take our precious mission of challenging power and inspiring change to the next level.

You can find out more about what that all involves here, and please do share the job spec widely. I won’t lie, it’s intense – but it’s also the best job anyone could dream of. 

Please form an orderly queue.

For more on openDemocracy’s journalism, vision and strategy please see our 2020 annual report.

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