Northside Innovation: Speaking with Jaron Gilinsky of Storyhunter

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Each month Northside Innovation, the tech and innovation conference that occurs during the annual Northside Festival in June, gathers top founders and thought leaders, who–over BBQ and Brooklyn Brewery Beer–speak on topics relevant to the community.

November’s meetup theme is Non-Traditional Content.  Specifically, we’ll be talking about good storytelling.  We’ve gathered together top creative directors and media publishers to discuss the art of the story. And, we’ll start off the night hearing from a startup founder who is promoting truth-seeking storytelling, journalism. Jaron Gilinsky’s company, Storyhunter, connects freelance journalists with media publishers. The result is that you and I get more diverse, more ‘insider’ stories from reporters around the world. That’s a good (and necessary) thing in this maddening 24-hour news cycle we live in.

We chatted with Gilinsky about his company, nostalgia for his time in the field, and his favorite Brooklyn restaurant.

What is Storyhunter?

Storyhunter is an online platform that helps media companies and publishers work with freelance journalists and filmmakers.

What is one journalist or story that stands out for you – that reminds you of why you started your company?

I got into journalism because I believed that it has the power to improve society.  I believe that even more so today.  But working as a freelance journalist or filmmaker is really challenging.  As a freelancer, despite winning some awards and working with elite news companies, I struggled to connect with editors and publishers and get regular gigs.  I also never had health care or insurance despite the fact that I was being sent to places like Gaza, Iraq, Pakistan, and North Korea.  I strongly identify with each and every journalist and filmmaker who is struggling with the same issues, and we built Storyhunter for them.

Do Storyhunter journalists break stories? Are you interested in that aspect of journalist?

Yes, storyhunters are constantly breaking news stories for our news partners. For example, about a week before the Hong Kong protests began, one of our storyhunters had already embedded herself with the activists.  She pitched the story before it ever appeared on any news site.  The news companies that saw the pitch and commissioned her had a huge advantage.

What was the amount of time between when you thought of your company’s idea and the time you started working on it full time?

8 years. I first conceived of the idea in 2004 when I began working as a freelancer and realized how inefficient (read: broken) the business of freelancing is.

Are there skills you learned as a journalist that translate to your current position as a startup founder?

Absolutely. Freelance journalism is probably the best training for entrepreneurship, since essentially, it is entrepreneurship.

What’s the most difficult part of your workday?

Tough to say. I think it’s probably when I see an assignment on the platform that intrigues me, and I have to remember that I’m no longer working as a freelancer.  I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that.

How closely do you follow the 24 hrs news cycle these days?

I follow it pretty closely.  Mostly on Storyhunter of course.  Our 4000+ journalists are constantly pitching news stories on the platform, so it’s kind of like a more in-depth Twitter news feed.

Do you miss being in the field and reporting stories?

Tremendously.

Is there an app that improves your life that not very many people know about?

Yes! SignNow is amazing. I really have a jinx when it comes to printers, and I use it to sign all my documents now.

Any favorite bar and/or restaurant in Brooklyn?

Yes, my favorite spot in Brooklyn is Madiba in Fort Greene.  It brings me back to my South African roots, and has the best bobotie I’ve had outside of Cape Town.

Gilinsky will be sharing his AHA moment – why he started Storyhunter – at Brooklyn Brewery on Monday, Nov 17th at 7pm.  Following his talk, esteemed film producer and IFP executive director Joana Vicente will sit down with Huge’s Group Creative Director Tim Nolan, Narratively’s Noah Rosenberg and WiTMedia’s Clint White to discuss storytelling in branded content.  For more on Northside Innovation, click here.

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