Parachute journalism is somewhat of a controversial topic among reporters and publishers. While some newspapers like the New York Times makes use of a “When in doubt, go” principle, many news consumers have said they would rather read stories written by local reporters.
Sarah Baird, a freelance journalist from Richmond, Ky., is among the many that would like to say goodbye to parachute journalism, which is why she created Shoeleather, a national database of journalists from non-media hub cities like New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The database aims to connect publications, assigning editors and the like to writers in cities they are interested in covering, dismissing the need for parachute journalism.
The initial idea for Shoeleather had been percolating for some time before becoming a reality but in the summer of 2018, Baird, with the help of developer Cameron Decker, began to build the database. The database officially launched in November 2018.
Baird said the platform is easy to use. “Journalists fill out a (relatively simple) sign-up form and, after approval, are added to the database that’s searchable according to a number of factors, primarily focused on geographic location. Editors can then search for journalists by city and state, primary and secondary beats, and beyond. Editors then contact any potential writer through their profile.”
However, Shoeleather does provide more than just writers. Baird excitedly told E&P about the diversity of the database. “It’s an amazingly diverse group from all across the country: from 40-year newsroom veterans, to budding radio producers, to freelance photojournalists, feature writers, breaking news experts and everything in-between.”
Baird said the response has been positively overwhelming and has “demonstrated just how much both editors and reporters have been looking for a resource like this.”
Currently, Shoeleather includes more than 1,000 journalists from all 50 states and the company is working to continue its growth of the U.S. database. When asked about the possibility of expanding, Baird said, “We recently added in U.S. territories due to an outpouring of requests. While we’re exploring international expansions in 2019, creating a Canadian version of Shoeleather would be first and foremost.”
In time, Baird also hopes to grow Shoeleather beyond a database and into a larger online community and resource center for journalists working outside of media hub cities. However, Baird’s main goal at the moment is to put an end to the well-known editor’s exclamation: “But we just don’t know anyone on the ground!”
To learn more about the database, visit shoeleather.us.