Freelance Journalism – Truth or Dare
By Lorraine Floyd
Freelance Journalism
Modern reporting in foreign places is quickly becoming a thing
of the past. As media outlets attempt to cut costs, foreign
correspondents are the usually the first to go. Luckily modern
technology has allowed for a quick adaption to the concept of
freelance journalism. Internet news sites are
becoming the norm and news agencies are
relying more and more on journalist who are local
to the news to do the reporting, photography,
and layouts of stories they provide. Real news,
real accurate, and real fast is the direction media is heading. While
established news providers adapt to this new methodology, a new
type of news outlet is emerging.
News that used to require bulky equipment and take weeks to
travel the globe now takes seconds as today’s foreign
correspondents travel light and use technology to transmit their
stories with the push of a button. The lecture notes remind us that a
laptop and international cell phone, together with a good digital
camera is the only equipment today’s journalist needs to gain
worldwide exposure (Module 7, Lecture Notes). Freelance journalist
can get in and out of places foreigners
can’t, they have ability to know the
people and culture (Ford Foundation).
Being a native to the area where news is
happening allows them to often times gather data and take pictures
where and when a traditional journalist would not.
There are challenges with freelance journalism. Fact checking
a staff journalist’s story can be challenging, but this challenge is
multiplied when the only source available is the person submitting
the story. Global Post, an internet new outlet that prides themselves
as being ‘America’s World News Site,’ relies on freelance writers to
submit world events in a timely manner. Many posted stories cite
articles from other sources as their resource; for example, a story
titled An Iraqi Offensive to Dislodge the Islamic State from Tikit Seems
to have stalled is actually a story from Thomson Reuters (Global Post).
Global post is representing themselves as an independent news
agency, when they are actually a collection of news stories from
other sources. The ability to fact check becomes murkier each time
the news story is passed to a new agency.
Another issue with freelance journalism is how opinion can very
easily be stated as fact. As media outlets become further detached
from the
countries the
stories are
stemming from it
creates a
situation where
the writer can
interweave their
own views into
the story and
potentially change the effect. The Ford Foundation points out in their
program, The Future of Global News, that for freelance journalists to
be credible they must present points and connects dots (Ford
Foundation). Thus the conundrum that editors deal with as
international journalism reshapes itself. A report has to be where the
news is happening for ‘ground-truth’ (Ford Foundation) yet, only the
reporter knows the true story. Fact checking has become puzzle that
editors, who know very little about the facts in foreign stories, must
piece together very quickly and accurately in order to present
truthful news to subscribers.
Truth or Dare
The news agencies that release the freelance articles must
review and process the stories they receive and format them for the
consumer. In the article, Retreating from the World, Jodi Edna
defines this process as “a modern, industrialized, assembly line
approach to foreign (and sometimes national) news” (Edna). Sorting
through countless news articles requires a systematic approach, an
eye for what the people want and need to here, and trusted list of
the journalists who submit stories.
Edna’s article interviews McMahon, who “runs a desk that
receives foreign and national stories from the Tribune's largest sister
paper, the Los Angeles Times. His staff then picks some of those
stories, edits them, trims them if need be and places them alongside
wire service reports to create nation/world "modules" for the
Chicago Tribune and six other Tribune Co. papers” (Edna). Format is
key in drawing people to the news. As we become part of a larger
global society it is important people understand what is going on in
remote places and the effect it may eventually have on them. What
is interesting or pertinent can vary depending the target region. For
example: an area within the U.S. with a large Asian population may
have more stake in what is going on in Asian countries than an area
with a large Northern European population. Focusing on those needs
and meeting them can be the difference in drawing people to the
news outlet.
Moving beyond traditional journalism, freelance journalism has
created a mechanism for accurate news to be presented in almost
real time. Snap pictures, write the story and with a few clicks of the
keyboard news travels the globe. Checks and balances are crucial
to providing unbiased information. Filtering, editing and formatting
are left to the news outlets who are also responsible for fact
checking. Deciphering between fact, opinion, and false data is a
challenge that is overcome by only accepting stories from
trustworthy sources. American journalists are being focused on local
stories and foreign freelance journalists earn their reputations by
accurately covering the rest of the world’s news.
No longer are American journalist traveling around the world
collecting information. Permanent affiliates stations are becoming a
thing of past. Freelance journalism is changing how news is reported
and what news we know about. It is changing the way we see the
world – shaping our thoughts and our actions. Editors and journalists
have an immense responsibility to ethically report facts and maintain
a fair and valued approach to the information they release. The
face of news is changing and with that the world is adapting.
Works Cited
Edna, Jodi. Retreating from the World. AJR. Jan. 2011 Web. March 11. 2015.
Global Post: America’s World News Site. 2014. Web. March 11. 2015.
Module 7 Lecture Notes. RODP. Web. March 11. 2015.
The Future of Global News. The Ford Foundation. Newseum. YouTube. April 15.
2010. Web. March 11. 2015.