Tech

Ukrainian news site raises funds to pay writers during war

“Wake up, the war has started!” My wife woke me up in the early morning of February 24th.

At first I didn’t understand what had happened – until the last day we didn’t believe that Russia could unleash a full-scale war. Our team continued to work as usual. I picked up the phone from the bedside table and opened work chats. Colleagues, 40 people from all over Ukraine, had been discussing what had happened for the past three hours. Russia fired missiles at a city; others watched tanks and military trucks drive past; People took relatives and children to a safer place or descended into air raid shelters.

At the end of the day it became clear that the old world was broken in pieces. Taleb’s black swan had flown by, and we all had to adjust to living in a new reality.

In the old reality, we had a good life. In the last five years, my wife and I have built the largest IT media holding company in Ukraine. MC.today wrote about IT business, ITC.ua about technology and Highload.today about developer. We were read by about 4 million Ukrainian users every month. In our team are talented Ukrainian journalists who have worked and continue to work and produce journalism for our website family.

Before the war, we all had the same inspiring goal: to help Ukraine become a prosperous country and to encourage Ukrainians not to be afraid of challenges, to push on and to reach new heights. But everything changed in one day. Here’s what happened to us next:

We have shifted our focus from IT news to reporting on current events

Authors who have reviewed the latest iPhone or interviewed IT businessmen have taken to covering the war. Now they write about where the nearest air raid shelter is, how Ukrainian refugees can settle in Poland or Germany. They create lists of useful resources and survival tips.

For some of us, the first few days really weren’t easy to accept. One of our journalists continued playing to process what had happened Gran Turismo 7 for three days to the sound of bombs – he was commissioned to review the game. A few days later he switched to covering military news.

In March, our audience doubled. Our team is now working nearly seven days a week, 12 hours a day, publishing about 100 articles a day across all three of our websites.

We believe our work is helping the country get through difficult times and our articles, albeit small, are still part of future victory. They give our readers strength and motivation to keep going.

The team works in basements and air raid shelters

Before the war, our team worked remotely. Now working remotely helps a lot. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if we were used to working in an office and had to completely reorganize the way we work.

Some of my colleagues are safe now. They hide from air raids either in western Ukraine, where life is almost normal, or in small villages far from the front lines. Some became refugees in European countries. Our news writer Tanya spent about five days behind the wheel with little to no sleep before she reached Germany.

Unfortunately, about half of the team is still working at the risk of their lives. In Kyiv, Zaporizhia, Rivne, Odessa and other cities, air raid alarms sound every day, several times a day. Russian bombs fall on these cities. Our team members have to hide in bomb shelters with their children, where they often spend whole nights and days.

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Some journalists have worked from web-enabled air raid shelters. [Photo courtesy of MC.today]

This is especially difficult for children. Whenever we receive a report on the phone, a daughter of our deputy editor-in-chief, Vladimir, asks whether it is an air raid alarm. She is afraid that her room will burn down from shells and never part with her toys, never stop hugging them.

Some journalists even manage to work from air raid shelters. They set up jobs there. Ukrainian providers have installed free Internet in air raid shelters. Journalists say the work keeps them from going insane. “If I don’t report back tomorrow, please know this has been the best job of my life,” our designer wrote as he descended into a bomb shelter in Kharkiv, a city that was heavily shelled.

Two of our team members, Nastya and Roksana, young and talented writers, are now in Mariupol, a city that almost wiped out Putin’s air force and where a theater formerly used as a shelter for 1,000 people was bombed this week. We don’t know if they’re alive or not. They have not called in for two weeks and we can only pray for them and hope they survive.

We continue to pay our writers’ salaries

We haven’t laid off a single employee or cut wages by a dollar since the beginning of the war. Our writers must support their families. You have to buy food, pay for the apartment. Many have fled their homes and have to pay for accommodation in Europe or western Ukraine. We cannot leave them to their fate. Money is no less needed in war than in peacetime.

Our income today is almost zero

Before the war, we made our income from selling domestic advertising to Ukrainian and international brands. Our customers included Visa, Mastercard, Samsung and Dell, banks and mobile operators.

On February 24th, our income was reduced to almost zero. Banner ads remained the only source of income, but they don’t bring in more than 5% of the amount needed. Almost all companies in Ukraine have ceased operations and none of us knows how much longer this will continue. All we know is that we must persevere to victory at all costs.

We started crowdfunding to support our team

We don’t want to close. Our duty now is to keep working for our readers. We must support our journalists. Their lives and the lives of their families largely depend on their work.

That’s why we created one crowdfunding campaign with hopes of raising $300,000. This money would be enough to support our team and cover operational costs for four to five months. During that time, we believe the war will end, and we will resume writing stories about talented Ukrainians and the tech companies they built. And together with them we will restore the land and build our future.

“I hope none of my loved ones die and remain crippled. This will end one day and we will be able to live again in a world where the biggest problem is a delinquent loan and a favorite bar closing,” wrote Gleb, a tech writer, last week. In his eyes, a Russian tank ran over a civilian car in the first days of the war. He still sees it.

I believe that Ukraine will win, and even after the most terrible night, dawn will come. I would be grateful if you could support us in this situation or share this column with your friends. Thanks.

Glory to Ukraine!

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[Photo of the author, courtesy of MC.today]

Timur Vorona is co-founder of Creators Media Group, a Ukraine-based media company publishing MC.today, ITC.ua and Highload.

https://www.fastcompany.com/90732817/im-a-ukrainian-tech-journalist-i-never-thought-id-have-to-pivot-to-war-reporting?partner=feedburner&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feedburner+fastcompany&utm_content=feedburner Ukrainian news site raises funds to pay writers during war

JACLYN DIAZ

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