In the rollercoaster year of 2020, against the backdrop of rapidly evolving audio and media landscapes, AIR committed to addressing the most pressing needs of our members and extended audio community. The ongoing global pandemic and fight for racial justice and equity required us to reflect on our organizational values and participation in the world, both as individuals and as a small team of professionals.
Amid the pandemic lockdowns in March, many AIR members saw their work and other freelancer safety nets vanish overnight; with no new gigs on the immediate horizon, figuring out how we could lend financial support and offer collaborative solutions became urgent.
Through it all, our growing 1,400+ membership and talent network—made up of journalists, podcasters, editors, producers, documentarians, engineers, sound designers and creative media entrepreneurs, based across 46 states and 30 countries worldwide—provided us with a daily pulse on shifting industry dynamics.
We know the time is now to innovate and organize around industry accountability and meaningful change as we co-create a more sustainable infrastructure for media makers to thrive. In 2021, we’re focused on advocating for equitable rates in podcasting and public radio; pushing for fair practice and employment opportunities that fully value independent contributors; expanding and diversifying the audio editing landscape; and making space for untold stories by new and underrepresented voices, among other goals. Our direct window into the real-time experiences, needs and challenges faced by independents and freelancers—whose breadth of contributions and networks are no longer limited to any single newsroom, institution or shop—continues to inform where AIR goes from here.
Below, you’ll find AIR’s major milestones of 2020, which propelled us into 2021 where our work continues. Here’s to building a brighter future in audio for all of us.
- AIR engages in community outreach and a series of in-person and virtual deep listening sessions with current members to understand primary need gaps for audio makers. These conversations shape our work and priorities over the months ahead.
- On March 27, AIR launches a freelance fund to provide emergency relief to the professional audio community impacted by COVID-19 and the sudden loss of work caused by social distancing requirements. We distribute $103,000 overall in $600 increments to 153 independents from around the world, and are among the first sources of financial relief for the audio industry during the pandemic.
- We begin to host roughly 2x weekly virtual webinars and community conversations to keep AIR members and the wider audio community connected during COVID-19 and provide relevant resources and practical tools. Programming topics include Fundraising Amidst a Crisis, Ageism in the Audio Industry, DIY Marketing for Podcasts, Client Management for Freelancers and Creating a Podcast Deck and Budget.
- We launch a revamped AIR website, equipped with a significantly improved search function, quicker access to community forums, an active opportunities board and an updated talent directory.
- AIR makes the difficult decision to cancel our 2020 in-person Full Spectrum Training program. We shift gears to developing more high-quality, digital classes and training, averaging five virtual webinars a month, to best serve our community’s audio educational needs. Topics range from how to negotiate IP for shows to the ins and outs of narrative script writing. These webinars help to spark additional ideas for member engagement, including virtual coffee breaks, remote co-working sessions, and new community forum conversations. They also set the stage for the future March 2021 launch of SoundPath, our digital learning platform, which features a dynamic line-up of pre-recorded and real-time video classes in audio-making skills, craft and ethics for working audio professionals and newcomers to the craft alike.
- AIR’s Director of New Voices, Ngoc-Tran Vu, and New Voices Captain Elena Rivera take AIR’s New Voices Fellowship Program—created to support emerging and underrepresented voices in audio and media—virtual in its 12th year, and the program expands from 16 to 20 fellows. 2020’s theme, “Mapping One’s Power and Allies Amidst Adversity,” centers on exploring how each of us can use and sustain our power in turbulent times. Over the next four months, fellows virtually gather, reflect and engage in critical dialogue on their journeys as media makers.
- AIR staffers participate in Allied Media’s 2020 Conference, a virtual gathering for media makers to connect and share resources, led by Ngoc-Tran Vu and Erin McGregor, Engagement Strategist.
- AIR releases an updated Code of Fair practice, a vital support tool for independents and freelance contributors faced with inappropriate non-disclosure agreements or unreasonable non-compete clauses.
- On September 23, AIR hosts a virtual panel during Public Media Journalist Association’s (PMJA) “Let's Go Live Summit,” centered around Building Great Relationships with Freelancers—from ensuring that your station’s compensation structure is fair to building a holistic system that allows independents to do their best work—hosted by Amanda Hickman, AIR’s Managing Director, and featuring panelists Angilee Shah, editor and entrepreneur; and Mónica Ortiz Uribe, freelance radio reporter who reports on the US/Mexico border and the American southwest for NPR and PRI.
- We are proud to celebrate 2014 AIR New Voices scholar Emanuele Berry's promotion to Executive Editor of This American Life, a newly created position where she will lead the show’s editorial vision.
- AIR releases its new sample contracts, designed to account for the increasingly multifaceted, more complex range of deals that our members are receiving and negotiating. Throughout 2020, we also make significant relational strides with unions and commercial industry contacts, including Writers Guild, SAG-AFTRA, and McClatchy newspapers.
- AIR partners with Microsoft to design digital audio training for 24 journalists representing 9 radio and print newsrooms in markets including El Paso (TX), Juarez (MX), Yakima (WA), and Fresno (CA), to collaborate and amplify reporting.
- New Voices 2020 concludes, and scholars continue to stay in touch with the network.