Wednesday, June 17, 2009

more from Jack

Jack forwards this piece from Monday's New York Times on the need for news organizations to protect journalists who do their jobs outside their comfort zones, vis-a-vis the detainment of Current TV journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee in North Korea.

The article points out the differences in the protection that buffers reporters backed by traditional news organizations versus the risk faced by freelancers, or journalists working for smaller start-ups, like Current TV.

The plus side of the risk-benefit analyis:

Start-up news organizations like Current TV are increasingly sending journalists to the world’s hot spots, putting a spotlight on news stories in new ways. It is, experts say, another consequence of the fragmented media landscape and the declines in international news coverage by traditional outlets.

The unconventional assignments are an expression of the generational changes in news coverage, especially in TV, where the jobs of camera operators, sound technicians and producers have, in many cases, been subsumed into one do-it-all position. And being unencumbered by a traditional news outlet has its advantages, as the reporters are sometimes free to take more risks.

On the other hand:
The Committee to Protect Journalists found that in 2008, at least 56 of the 125 jailed journalists worked for online outlets and that 45 of the total were freelancers.

“These freelancers are not employees of media companies and often do not have the legal resources or political connections that might help them gain their freedom,” the committee reported.

As news divisions hit by the recession make cuts in foreign coverage, freelancers shoulder more of the risks. “Pretty soon we’re just not going to have any of the types of stories Laura and Euna went to cover,” said Daniel Beckmann, a friend of Ms. Ling and a former colleague at Current TV.

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