The outgoing editor of openDemocracy has been shortlisted for the XCity Award for her work in holding the Government to account and for the news site’s scrutiny of social and political issues.
Mary Fitzgerald (Magazine, 2007) has been editor of the global media organisation since 2014.
Reacting to her shortlisting, she said: “It’s lovely, very surprising and a very august company to be in.”
The XCity Award is an annual £500 prize for outstanding journalism by an alumni, selected by a panel of City lecturers and academics. Ms Fitzgerald is one of five people appearing on the shortlist for the £500 prize and the winner will be announced exclusively on XCityPlus next week.
openDemocracy was founded in 2001 and is an independent media organisation which aims to stimulate democratic debate by reporting on abuses of power worldwide. Following work at Prospect and the campaigning non-profit organisation Avaaz, Ms Fitzgerald became openDemocracy’s editor in 2014.
“Although they can read it for free, people decide to make a contribution because they believe that the public interest and holding power to account needs to be supported”
Since then, openDemocracy was nominated for the Paul Foot Award in 2019 for its investigation into the financial backers of the Brexit campaign, while several of its writers have appeared on the Orwell Prize shortlist, most recently Peter Oborne. In 2020, it notably covered surveillance of citizens by government agencies and Big Tech, and the cronyism between the UK Government and the companies which have received COVID-19 contracts.
Among Ms Fitzgerald’s achievements in the role, she introduced a partially crowdfunded model which has helped openDemocracy to weather the financial difficulties faced by many media organisations in recent years.
She said: “We’re not reliant on advertising, and we get grants and donations, but we also get contributions from thousands of readers. That’s voluntary, and it’s the most extraordinary testament to the brilliant work that my team does because although they can read it for free, people decide to make a contribution because they believe that the public interest and holding power to account needs to be supported.”
Ms Fitzgerald also said that crowdfunding helped their journalism to remain independent. She said: “It’s really important to have diversified income streams so you aren’t reliant on just one person or organisation. And that’s what we’ve built at openDemocracy because we were very much early adopters of reader revenue and crowdfunding.”
“It was the grounding in those basic journalism skills in interviewing, news reporting, feature writing, and editing”
She added that she was also proud of how they had recruited people from historically underrepresented backgrounds, such as LGBTQ people and people of colour, to join their 56-strong team. She said: “It’s really, really important that the people who are making and telling the news come from diverse backgrounds because they spot things that others won’t.”
Ms Fitzgerald said that the knowledge she gained at City laid the bedrock for her success. She said: “It was the grounding in those basic journalism skills in interviewing, news reporting, feature writing, and editing. It’s the foundation that allowed me to go with confidence into my first job.”
In an article published on 29 April, Ms Fitzgerald announced that she was moving on from the role of editor-in-chief. She said that the announcement of her future plans will come “in mid-June”. Read about the other nominees here.