Therapy Relief Fund Assists Black Journalists
By Joshua Glenn
In the midst of a seemingly never-ending pandemic, racial injustice and environmental stressors, the news industry has been working around the clock. As systems continue to expose racial handicaps, Black journalists around the world have been put on the front lines to write stories from a first-hand perspective.
Working in the journalism industry can require a high level of mental fortitude. Interviews and stories can be difficult for both sources and writers. The Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund (BJTRF) was founded by Sonia Weiser in May 2020, to supply mental health resources for Black journalists around the globe.
Her initial inspiration for the program stems from the reaction to a tweet: “Hey, is there any way to sponsor therapy for Back journalists right now?” Weiser is the owner of the verified Twitter account @weischoice, which has nearly 20,000 followers from around the world. With that many followers, the lack of response to her tweet was concerning and she decided to take matters into her own hands.
The BJTRF gained traction immediately after starting. Funding the program herself, she realized her initial business plan had flaws and began searching for answers. In September 2020, she was contacted by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) about supporting her mission to supply mental health resources to those seeking the truth and reporting it to the community. The IWMF aims to unleash the potential of women journalists as champions of press freedom in the global news media.
Since partnering with the foundation, the fund’s outreach has expanded far beyond the United States. Although most of those supported have been within the U.S., the fund has supported more than 90 Black journalists from five countries including Canada, South Africa and Turkey.
To date, the BJTRF has raised over $175,000 to provide resources such as counseling and other mental health services to members of the African American community. Largely in part to its relationship with the IWMF, 81% of those who have received support have been female journalists. Another 8% have been non-binary and 11% have been male.
BJTRF will consider supporting Black journalists globally who: are employed full time, part-time, freelance, or as an intern; were laid off/furloughed due to COVID-19 or who quit due to harmful workplace practices; or are former journalists suffering from lasting emotional or physical trauma from your time in the field.
Although Weiser’s involvement with the fund has dwindled since the foundation took over, “We just can’t keep making these individual campaigns,” she said. She hopes large corporations will see the importance initiatives like hers have on the community and will take action to provide these resources internally for their own reporters. The fund also accepts donations from individuals and businesses.
By realizing the stress of reporting during multiple global crises, support for reporters has become as essential to the industry as the writers themselves. The Black Journalist Therapy Relief Fund continues to operate under the IWMF to provide peace of mind for Black journalists across the globe.
Editor’s note: To learn more, donate or apply to the Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund, go to https://www.iwmf.org/bjtrf/.