By: Morgan Gstalter
In 2013, Forbes named newspaper reporter as the worst job in America. In 2014, it swtiched spots with lumberjack and moved up to number two. Their reasoning seemed simple: long and unreliable hours, exceptional stress, a low median salary of $37,000 and the danger of reporting.
James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Peter Leo Curtis were all captured by Islamic militants in Syria. All reported under the title of “freelance war journalist.” With Foley and Sotloff’s gruesome murders comes to light the true danger of freelance reporting and why this dangerous job is still one of the most important jobs.
CBS News published an article entitled “In danger and ‘on their own’: The perils of freelance war reporting” by Julia Steers. It illustrates the harsh reality of reporters working out of the Middle East.
The numbers are frightening. “According to Reuters, 714 journalists worldwide have been killed since 2000 for doing their job,” says an article published by Business Insider. Commitee to Protect Journalists sites 34 have been confimed dead in 2014 alone, with 11 of those deaths in Syria.
Often times, freelancers are “on their own” in dangerous environments, without security details or special press passes from the government.Their editors are thousands of miles away and reporters travel with limited equiptment. News managers need to step back from the money and assess the risk for each new reporter they hire. They need to step up and act responsibly for the life of their employees, including purchasing protective equiptment for their journalists and doing daily check-ins about their welfare.
Many are calling now the time to pull out reporters covering war-zones or where free press is restricted in a totalitarian regime. The risk is simply too high now and we have lost too many of our own. But with this manuever, we would risk a disrruption of media on current events.
The importance of freelance journalism is highlighted now more than ever, given the horrific circumstances. But one question remains: is the cost of accurate and timely news too grave for freelance reporters?