Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone
Freelance broadcast journalist Kevin Sites became a lightning rod for controversy back in November 2004 when he captured footage of a U.S. marine shooting an Iraqi inside a mosque in Falluja.
Now he’s taken his experience and has turned it into a “solo journalist” project atYahoo.
The Guardian had this report on Sites reporting on The Hot Zone.
Now Sites and his team produce Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone, a year-long odyssey to try and cover every conflict in the world. Each week the website carries a mixture of video, photography and text to tell the stories inside war-ravaged or politically disputed areas. Almost halfway through the project now, he has covered Somalia, Iran, Lebanon, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
Although Sites operates as a “sojo” – solo journalist – there are three more team members based in Yahoo’s media HQ in Los Angeles, who help edit and choose material. The group operates independently, picking their own assignments and publishing their own material. It is certainly a new kind of project, and from a new kind of media organisation. The free-ranging concept appealed because it contrasted so sharply with the mindset which dominates American network news.
“We feel that foreign coverage is incredibly important,” he says. “Americans, especially, are uninformed about these things – but that’s the challenge. The conventional wisdom in the US media is that people aren’t interested in foreign news.”
The failures of ‘calendar journalism’
Columnist Brenda Powers offers this mea culpa on the media neglect in the wake of the 25th anniversary of Ireland’s Stardust disco tragedy.
Excerpts from The Sunday Times piece:
In the mid-1980s I was not long out of college, a young freelance journalist working for the Irish Press. Unlike the other newspapers, the Press paid a shift rate for “markings”, single assignments such as protest marches or council meetings. The one marking you didn’t want was the Stardust Relatives Committee meetings.
…Being marked down to cover the Stardust Relatives Committee was a real drag, though. It meant getting a couple of buses to chilly, grey halls in bleak landscapes on the northside. It meant sitting in the cold for hours listening to the same angry, sad, defeated people endlessly pursuing their hopeless cause.
You’d trudge back to Burgh Quay, write up the committee’s latest demands and know that, at best, your piece would end up as a couple of paragraphs on the bottom of a left-hand page.
They slipped from the headlines because we all got bored with the story.
But now it’s 25 years later and the imperatives of “calendar journalism” require us to revisit these people. There are a couple of generations who never learnt the details of the Stardust disaster. We can watch and read and listen with our children or younger friends and say, “ I remember all that.” Imagine it, 48 young people, average age 19, burnt to death at a St Valentine’s disco.
Imagine the heartbreak in all those homes and the financial hardship in households where those youngsters’ wages helped make ends meet. Imagine that some of the fire doors were locked, and yet nobody went to prison.
Imagine that the owner of the Stardust got hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation, and yet the families of the dead and maimed had to fight tooth and nail to get a few miserable thousand each. Imagine that smart lawyers and cynical politicians bought them off so cheaply, knowing they were poor.
Editors, be gentle with us
British freelancer Susan Wallace reaches out to feature editors in the hopes they will “be gentle with me.” Here’s her piece from the Press Gazette.
The one thing we all want in our incestuous, merry-go-round uncommunicative communication culture, feature editors and fairy elephant freelances alike, is a brilliant article for the readers and a better future. The reward for good work should be more work, preferably grief-free — and I’ll sprinkle some magic glitter over that!
Kurt Schork Memorial Awards
The Institute for War and Peace Reporting announces the Kurt Schork Memorial Awards, honoring the contributions of freelance journalists covering foreign news and reporters from the developing world and countries in transition.
Two $5,000 prizes are awarded each year, one to a local reporter covering local stories in a developing country or nation in transition, and the other to a freelance journalist covering international news. The stories can focus on conflict, human-rights concerns, cross-border issues, or any other issue of controversy in a particular country or region. Nominees will be judged on the quality of writing and investigative effort, and on the level of courage and resourcefulness demonstrated in producing the stories.
Underwritten by the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund and Reuters, and administered by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, the prizes honour Kurt Schork, an American freelance journalist who was killed in Sierra Leone in May 2000 while on assignment for Reuters.
The application deadline for the 2006 awards is 1 June 2006