Or: Why we decided to claim a fee for an online conference

Dataharvest – the European Investigative Journalism Conference 2020 – is going online because of the coronavirus and is now Dataharvest Digital 2020. We hope that the investigative journalism community will join us on these unknown waters!

We do this at a time, when many conferences move from real life to digital meeting places, and some do it for free. At Arena, we have considered carefully how to go about participation fees for an online conference: Should participation be free or for a fee?

We have decided on a participation fee – for several reasons:

  • Because training and knowledge sharing are valuable. We do not want to depreciate the fabulous gifts by our speakers and trainers by giving their contribution away for free.
  • Many on the investigative and data journalism community are freelancers and cross-fund their journalism by teaching and training. We don’t want to undermine their possibilities by giving away training for free.
  • In some countries, mid-career training is a functioning infrastructure, for example supported by labour agreements between journalists’ and publishers’ associations. We do not want to endanger these well-working systems.
  • The underlying concern is, of course, how publishers gave away online news in the 90ies in the quest for clicks. We have seen the decade-long struggle to ensure funding for good journalism after that move. We do not want to repeat that mistake.

Still, we want to make Dataharvest Digital accessible for all. The fee is much lower than the usual conference fee, there are no travel and hotel costs and the program is flexible over several months. We have reduced fees for freelancers and students, and we have managed to fundraise for participation stipends for colleagues from countries in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe.

The fees will be:EmployeesFreelancers/Students
Full conference€90€60
2 months€75€45
1 month€40€25

Like the Dataharvest Digital itself, the participation fee is an experiment. Please comment on our choices – we will gather all comments and include them in our evaluation. All feedback on practicalities, presentations or principles is important, because we hope to use the experience from the Dataharvest Digital 2020 to learn for future digital networking between the real-life conferences.