Archive for October, 2017


Women Feel the Emotional Weight of Telling Our Stories

Earlier this year, Source published a piece I wrote that was framed as an open letter to hiring managers. It documented my six-month journey in finding a job after being part of the massive layoffs at Fusion.

As we were nearing the end of revisions, my amazing editors, Erin Kissane and Lindsay Muscato, asked me how they could support me after publication, and we discussed how to handle negative feedback. I had read enough pieces by women to know it probably wouldn’t be easy. I was gearing up for comments about my performance, my focus on gender, my gall to publicly discuss my experience.

When it published, I was working on a two-week assignment for Poynter in South Africa teaching journalists about digital strategy. I knew it was set to publish on June 8, and I anxiously awaited for America to wake up and read what I had poured my heart into.

The likes, retweets, and comments poured in. I received exactly one negative comment: a man told me that the gender pay gap wasn’t real. I ignored him. That was it. My piece was shared in industry newsletters, on Marketplace, in a podcast.

As my story was amplified, I received more and more private messages from women who had similar experiences. After two days of comments and messages, I cried myself to sleep. I had started this conversation, but, it turns out, I wasn’t really ready to participate in it. Hearing these stories was emotionally exhausting. I was sad for these women, sad for the industry I love, and ultimately, sad for myself.

I didn’t feel like I had triumphed or that my piece was something to celebrate. I was and am still dealing with a lot of pain. I didn’t take being laid off personally; a ton of extremely talented journalists were let go at the same time. But it did hurt when they posted my job again. It hurt when organizations would use ideas from my required proposals without hiring me. It hurt when hiring managers would question my age or gender. It hurt when my applications were ignored by acquaintances in the industry. I felt frustration, rage, disappointment, and discouragement. I often felt like a failure.

I replied to every private message and almost every comment about my piece. I thanked them for reading. I apologized that they went through something similar. I advocated that we needed to fix the industry’s problems. My replies were short, because even though I had been thinking about this since November, I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t effectively comfort others because I was still comforting myself. I now know why people write memoirs years later.

I spoke about hiring at the SRCCON conference a few months after publishing my piece. It had been about nine months after I was laid off; I had just started at the Wall Street Journal. As I chatted with people during breakfast and in between sessions, I was shocked at how many people said, “I recognize you from your article about hiring!” They told me they loved my piece.

This attention was unlike anything I had received before because it wasn’t about something I was proud of. I loved talking about the work my team did; I would brag on them any chance I had. But I was at a loss of words when someone complimented a piece about what had happened to me. I mustered a superficial, “Thank you for reading. I’m so glad to see the response.” and tried to move on to another topic.

The response truly blew me away. I did not expect that much support or that much noise raised. I heard some teams were using it as they were refining their hiring processes, and if even one journalist has a better experience, it will be worth putting myself out there. But we need to go bigger, too. We need to get these stories into the hands of CEOs, executive editors, anyone that can truly make a difference.

Throughout the journalism industry, we ask women to be brave a lot, both as colleagues and as sources. We ask them to share pieces of themselves that tell important stories. We should not stop doing this; these are stories that should be told. But being the voice of many is a vulnerable experience, and we have to support women when the personal goes public.

As friends and colleagues, we must be nuanced in our responses. Unless the new job after a layoff is an absolutely perfect fit, it may be bittersweet. We must be understanding that transitions take time, a job offer does not solve everything, and change can be really hard even if it’s exciting. We must vocalize that going through a difficult time does not make you a bad journalist who isn’t cut out for an industry that can be cruel. We must co-own the heavy responsibility of these stories and advocate for change ourselves. In my case, this is the difference in putting your name on an email to HR to question policies vs. telling them to get in touch with me.

We have to do everything we can for these stories to matter so that hopefully, one day, these stories won’t exist.

Rachel Schallom is an editor specializing in digital strategy and visual and data journalism. She’s the newsroom project manager at the Wall Street Journal. She curates a weekly newsletter highlighting interesting things happening in visual journalism. She has been an adjunct professor teaching coding for journalism students, has spoken at national and international conferences, and is involved in making journalism a more equal place for women to work. You can follow her work on Twitter, Facebook and at rachelschallom.com

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The Art of Asking – Coalition For Women In Journalism Launches Advice Column

These are wild times for women in journalism. On one hand, we arguably have more opportunities than ever before in history and yet, worldwide, female reporters still face countless obstacles to professional development – from wage gaps to online harassment and offline violence.

Sometimes it makes me want to give up. Most days I just scream into a pillow (try it, feels great.) But it’s important we resist and I suggest a simple practice: Ask more questions.

In an industry that feeds off our insecurities and pitches us against each other, asking for what we need can be a subversive move – whether that is advice or travel expenses.

Skeptical? Here are some benefits of asking for more:

– Dramatically improves the chances of getting what you want
– It shows you are human (you’re not all-powerful? Great, let’s be friends)
– It makes you compassionate towards the needs of others
– It challenges unrealistic (and often sexist) expectations
– It improves the standards for those who will come after you

Still, most female journalists struggle to ask for what they need; which is painfully ironic. After all, is there something more quintessentially journalistic than asking questions?

As professionals, we will not hesitate to chase down a source for months in order to get an answer. But when it’s to negotiate our salary or ask a friend for an editor’s contact info, well, that’s a different animal.

This selective muteness is so pervasive sometimes it’s hard to identify.
But see if you can relate to any of the following. Have you ever…
… prefaced a question by saying “sorry for asking” or “this is probably a silly question but…”?
… not asked something because you thought “I should know this by now”?
… bitten your tongue because you didn’t want to “come across as difficult/ungrateful”?
… endured more than you had to for fear of being seen as “a damsel in distress”?
… thought, “I must be the only one struggling with this”?

Yeah, me too.

This needs to stop. If we want to help women journalists thrive, we must get comfortable asking for the support we deserve – whether it is borrowing a camera lens, getting feedback on a story or negotiating a decent kill fee.

That thing you’re thinking of right now? The one that feels like it would be “too much”?
I beg you, ask for it.

Don’t know who to ask? Try me! This column is meant to be a safe space for female journalists to share their predicaments – however major or mundane. Send your burning questions at dear.laura@womeninjorunalism.org and if I can’t answer them, I’ll find you someone who can.

Love,
L


Laura is an independent journalist obsessed with borders and everything that crosses them. Born in Barcelona, she writes about development, migration, and trafficking of all kinds. Her work lives on Newsweek, The Guardian, Slate, Fortune, NPR and others.

These days, she spends most of her time in East Africa and the Middle East she previously lived in Spain, France, Italy and the U.K. working towards a double major in political science and international relations as well as an MA in international journalism from City University, London.

You can read more from the Coalition’s Dear Laura on Medium.

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Testing My Limits and Experience Helped Me Grow Professionally

The woman who gave me my first job in journalism as an intern for National Public Radio was Sue Goodwin. A producer of a national call-in talk show, she was a tornado of determination and creativity. From the first moment I met her, I found her passion and sincerity contagious.

I was still in university at the time Sue brought me to NPR and was leaning toward a career in international development or the foreign service. Growing up in the Middle East, my impression of journalists was negative. As violence would flare up, they would descend on Jerusalem, crowding the American Colony hotel bar telling loud war stories. Once the story dropped from the headlines they would disappear.

I was raised in a pacifist home and taught not to glorify violence. My earliest memories are of the first intifada in the West Bank. Israeli soldiers beating a man outside my home, a teenager throwing a rock through the window of our apartment and my father being called out of our house to remove a roadblock by a group of soldiers.

By high school, the second intifada erupted. I witnessed suicide bombings, lost one friend to a terrorist attack and a separate attack left another friend paralyzed all before the age of 18. I didn’t want to be part of a media landscape that fed off a tragedy.

My time at NPR changed my view of journalism completely. The newsroom Sue created fed off ideas that moved stories forward, sparked debate and asked tough questions. As news broke, one of the questions she would pose at editorial meetings that were beginning to run flat was: “ok, so whose voice are we not hearing?”

This was exactly what I wanted to devote my life to uncovering. I was hooked.

In the Al intisar district in Mosul, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2016.(AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

In the winter of 2008, I was preparing to cover the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, when Israeli forces pushed into Gaza. Within the space of twelve hours, I was assigned to fly to Tel Aviv. NPR’s foreign editor Loren Jenkins overlooked my relatively green credentials, valuing my knowledge of the story above all. He went to bat for me before I was even totally confident I could complete the task, handing me my first big break.

That taught me something valuable quickly: competence can get you anywhere. As long as you work hard and know what you’re doing, people will be willing to take chances on you.

In the front lobby of the Ambassador hotel in east Jerusalem I met Anne Garrels, then a senior international correspondent for NPR. Covering the Soviet Union, Afghanistan and Iraq over the course of more than two decades, Anne had paved the way for my generation of female journalists.

Hunkered down in a hotel room that first night I listened to her spin soundbites into radio gold.

Unlike the journalists I remembered from my childhood, Anne avoided the hotel lobby bars, she didn’t name-drop and brag about close scrapes or being detained. When we talked, we talked about the story.

She didn’t lecture, she thought out loud. Her chatter telegraphed the ideas and feelings of others, not her own. She also emphasized something my parents taught me: a good work ethic will win you the respect of your colleagues. Ignore everything else.

Anne became an instant role model. Back in Washington, I listened through her catalog of stories for NPR, trying to learn how she constructed narratives and pulled listeners in.

It was only as I began to push up through the ranks of journalism in my late 20s and 30s, that I encountered entrenched misogyny in the workplace. I was in my 30s when a colleague first told me “you can’t do that because you’re a woman.” I was flabbergasted and incensed. Within a week I went out and did that thing and did it well.

Today, as the head of the Baghdad bureau for the Associated Press, I see that most of the people in management positions directly above me are men.

I’m lucky however to have a troop of wise female bureau chiefs in the Middle East who I often turn to for advice. Something I think many ambitious people encounter is that drive can often land you in situations that test the limits of your skill and experience. It’s overwhelming, but I also believe it’s how you learn and advance.

I wouldn’t have been able to navigate the last two years of working for AP in Iraq without the colleagues who took time to talk me through ideas and frustrations.

Once I began covering the fight against the Islamic State group with AP, my family and friends asked how it felt to be the only woman at a base when embedding with Iraqi forces, assuming that is where my gender presented the most significant obstacle.

But in the field, no Iraqi soldier or civilian ever made me feel self-conscious. I moved seamlessly from covering combat in a Humvee packed with men to sitting with a young family in their living room, in both worlds I was equal parts human and alien.

Our job is to bear witness. Be it to bring attention to atrocities, hold the powerful accountable or amplify a voice that would otherwise go unheard. It often means meeting people for the first time on the worst day of their lives. For me, those are the hardest scenes to document and interviews to conduct.

When I was driving to the airport for my first foreign assignment nearly 10 years ago my father reminded me: “you need to be impartial, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show empathy.”

Earlier this year in western Mosul at a field hospital next to the bodies of three dead children, I thought about my father’s words as I put my notebook in my pocket and held a woman’s hand as a tourniquet was fastened to her leg.

The medic called me over to comfort her as I was the only other woman in sight. She was in pain, scared and embarrassed that her Abaya had to be lifted to stop the bleeding from a shrapnel wound. At least one of her family members had been killed in front of her and she had been separated from her children.

We made eye contact and smiled. After she was loaded onto an ambulance the medics said she would probably lose the leg, the road to the nearest hospital was too far.

That scene still haunts me. But the stark realities I witnessed then and throughout the last nine years inform my coverage of conflict. When I sit down with generals and government officials, they bring statistics with them to support the policy they’re promoting, but often end up asking me about what I saw on the ground.

The next day as I prepared to go back out to the front line, I asked myself, “ok, whose voice are we not hearing?”

Susannah George is the current head of the AP Baghdad Bureau. Her previous work includes contributions to NPR and PRI. You can follow her on Twitter.

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I Want to See Equality in Photojournalism, so I Hire Women

As a journalist, I often cover topics related to gender equality, but it is only recently that I’ve discovered the power of using my budget and my editorial relationships to get more women hired. As I’ve become more comfortable and confident negotiating with editors, rather than simply accepting assignments as editors propose them – I negotiate. But I’m not talking about negotiating rates for myself, which is a given. For example, if an editor accepts a pitch of mine and provides a rate, I will immediately propose that a woman photographer to join my team, provide links to her work, and ask for a photography budget. I have a long-term love affair with photography, and I am continually enraged to see how few women photographers are represented at major media outlets – 15% to be exact.

This year I decided to channel my anger into making a change in my own projects. Early in my career, I was too afraid of editors and too desperate for money to ask them for anything. But what I have realized is that often if I can make a convincing argument, editors do have flexible budgets and they will support my vision for a project. I spend a lot of time obsessing over photographers who would be ideal for specific projects, so I have a clear idea of who I want to work with and why, and editors, for the most part, respect that.

I have also started to send all my editors a link to Women Photograph, which was founded by photojournalist Daniella Zalcman and showcases some of the best women photographers around the globe.  My editors have been responsive and have hired women photographers for projects that previously would have either had no photographer or a male photographer. Now I regularly receive emails from editors asking for recommendations for women photographers working in certain regions. One of my editors at Longreads recently wrote, “Women Photograph has been such an essential resource, thank you.”

Photo by Cambria Harkey.

Sometimes the statistics on gender equality in journalism are soul-crushing because the struggle is real for women to get paid equally and to be represented equally at the highest levels of publishing. In order to fend off the weariness that comes with feeling powerless, I have tried to make small changes in my own work and to challenge myself and my editors to have more awareness of the importance of representing the world through the eyes of women.

These experiences working with women photographers have enriched my work and pushed me to take on more physically and mentally challenging stories. In August 2017, I found myself traveling from San Salvador, El Salvador to Tapachula, Mexico via bus accompanying a trans woman fleeing El Salvador alongside photographer Danielle Villasana. I had discovered Danielle’s extensive body of work on trans women online, was moved by the strength of her photos, and wrote to both her and one of my editors to propose a project. As a result, Danielle and I spent 14 days in El Salvador documenting the threats faced by trans women. On our first night there, we interviewed Marfil, a trans woman sex worker, and she told us, “Tomorrow at 3am, I am getting on a bus to flee the country.” Danielle and I looked each other in the eyes, and as if reading each other’s minds made a split-second decision to ask Marfil if we could accompany her.  We were matched in our fierce desire to tell the story, to do it justice, and we knew that we would.

Alice Driver is a long-form journalist and an international speaker who focuses on human rights, gender equality, and migration in Latin America. She is currently based in Mexico City. You can follow her work on Twitter and Instagram.

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Mentors Teach You What Journalism Schools Don’t Teach

Journalism has come a long way, from the age of print to the digital. As the industry evolves, I have realized that we need to change our collective mindset.

It is time to embrace our individuality as more women break into the industry and the industry needs to find a way to respond to it.

When I was working in Pakistan, I had to fight many battles. I was a single Pakistani girl working in the media industry, living on my own in the city; something not many women can do in that culture. Simply to exist in that environment where women are discouraged to step out of the house and work raises eyebrows. If you work in the media, like I did, meant the barriers multiplied both from society and from your workplace. In that environment, you either listen or leave. I did none of it and tried to overcome them instead. I wanted to open the doors that were closed shut on me, and women who came after me.

As I started looking for a job, I recall, my first interview was for a well-respected mainstream news channel, the producer suggested if I wanted the job I should take off my Hijab, which I wore back then. He said I needed to “show off my features more” in order to present the news. I refused, stating that it was my decision to make and not his. Needless to say, I never got a callback but that is how my journey started.

Eventually, I found a job of my liking at another news channel but it wasn’t long before I realized that I could never have my way. My immediate boss, department head, would always take credit for all my ideas. I was expected to follow a certain pattern, always the same things to be done over in a loop, looking over and reviewing work of other colleagues, sub-menial tasks, updating the web, social media, even though I was hired as a writer. A small mistake would lead to an argumentative homily about how impactful my mistake was, even though the project I was responsible to run, was in fact, my idea. “Show me that you can do it,” my boss would tease me.

People who were hired after me got paid more than I did because they were men. Even when many of them worked under my supervision and had to work on my ideas.

The constant criticism and bantering never gave me an opportunity to learn and grow. The lack of acknowledgment of my contributions, in fact, played terribly for the company. While they were busy judging me for my age and scrutinizing my ideas, they often forgot to recognize the ones they could actually benefit from. So the loss was not mine alone. This demeaning treatment left a lasting impact on me. It took me six months to recover from the feeling of worthlessness.

Switching to a progressive newspaper was like a breath of fresh air. I was finally given chances to explore ideas, talk to people, understand the world and develop my style. This too didn’t come without hurdles. I had to prove myself, I had to prove that: Being a woman should not mean my beat should only be restricted to culture or lifestyle. It is important to understand that women journalists, opportunities are always undersized, and that needs to change. When women are not given them beat that would put them at risk, it is discrimination. ‘Risk’ a subjective notion; I wasn’t asked if I found the story risky or not, rather told that I shouldn’t be doing it for my own good. The same attitude followed for stories which required travel, adventure or anything out of the box. As long as my coverage was relevant to the “women beat” – usually the lifestyle section, women rights issue coverage, culture — they were fine.

I was always told I have a long way to go and learn a lot; which was true, journalism is a process of never-ending learning, but that process requires mentorship, and guidance, not rigid criticism and abandonment. Imagine the time it may take to overcome the trauma of discrimination; the weight of constant rejection, the taunts that undermine your work. Now imagine doing that while being a woman in a conservative society. That’s a lot to take. And it takes time to take it all in. So I took my time.

Publications that still run on a hierarchical system, have little space for improvisation and excelling. Such newsrooms are restricted because you always have to go by the book. If anything goes wrong you call the editor and ask for an exact solution. This kind of manager-subordinate relationship it needs to be buried. We need to embrace an ecosystem where fresh ideas of young journalists and expertise of the old and experienced can combine and thrive. A system that nurtures independent journalists and embraces the diversity that women journalists bring.

With the right guidance and trust, the journalistic process can be a fruitful one and the right guidance is exactly what lacks in the journalistic market, at least for women.

With a mentor, the capacity for self-construction increases drastically. I didn’t know how important a mentor is until I got one. Mentors teach you what journalism schools don’t teach. The courses don’t teach you how to deal with a situation, how to contact sources and how to get rid of the desk job you don’t want.

I must regard my first mentor, Luavut Zahid who said “do not let anyone tell you, you can’t do a story. Just go and get it done.”

I was delighted when I first read about The Coalition of Women in Journalism, my first thought was, finally! I was not the only one who considered that mentorship was a needed.

I applied for an internship in the summer and was delighted when I got it. I was thrilled to move to New York to help with some amazing research that the Coalition has been working on. This experience thought be incredible, both groomed me in a technical capacity but also shattered so many misconceptions I have had about “women in the West”

Before coming to New York I used to think that women in the west have it easy and maybe now I will have it easy too. My ideas were shattered as I uncovered more and more about the women in the west when I met these women in the west through the program and discussed my ideas with them. Newsflash, women in the West don’t have it easy either. That shatters me, because if the developed world doesn’t have it then who does. I learned heartbreakingly, the dilemmas of solid and talented women who were being undermined by their male counterparts. I realized that actually gender discrimination is a global epidemic, and not restricted to our shanty backward world.

In time, it occurred to me how important it was the work that I did with the Coalition for Women in Journalism, assisting a diverse group of women from all backgrounds and colors who work everyday strengthen this ecosystem of support. These wonderful journalists who work with the Coalition as mentors are mostly freelance journalists as mentors from so many places, who sacrifice their time to help a colleague. How beautiful is that? It is a miracle if you really think about it. It soothes all the pain I have carried on my – reasonably young – back. The pain and trauma I gathered along my early career that taught me all the wrong things by the men who mistreated me and women who did not stand by my side. Ladies at the Coalition for Women in Journalism give me confidence that I will have people looking out for me as I stride forward.

On the internships, I learned so much about myself. Working closely with the founder Kiran Nazish, I learned a tremendous number of new skills — I can now take phone interviews, translate flummox jargon from long research papers into sensible language, send emails and bite my Halal sandwich all at once. I learned for the first time that I was the master of my dreams, that no goals are beyond my limits, that while there are rocks on the way, those rocks can be taken out. Of course, you better build some muscle for that and the Coalition for Women in Journalism allows us to do that. Most of all, I learned that women will be equal when not some, but all women are stronger. And that it takes courage to acknowledge that.

Annam Lodhi is a journalist based in the UAE. She has worked in television and print in Pakistan. Annam was also the first inaugural intern at the Coalition for Women in Journalism. Given her commitment, she later joined the Coalition as an assistant, editorial researcher. You can follow her work on Twitter.

The Coalition for Women in Journalism is the first global support network for women journalists of all backgrounds. We work in several countries, and offer help to journalists in multiple languages. The network of individuals and organizations bring together the experience and mentorship necessary to help women navigate the industry. You can visit the website, womeninjournalism.org to learn more.

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Why Doesn’t Anyone Train Fixers?

Fixers are a vital part of the newsgathering process. They secure your access to a story, handle your logistics and act as a go-between when interviewing in a foreign language. The success of your project, as well as your personal safety, is directly placed in their hands but there is no other part of the industry where such a vital role is given to untrained, largely unverified individuals.

Writer Paul Theroux wrote “Most Travel, and certainly, the rewarding kind involves putting yourself into the hands of people you don’t know and trusting them with your life” and never was this truer than in the fixer/journalist relationship. Therefore, why are there no training platforms out there, certifications or accreditations to ensure that the person you’re working with has at least a basic level of knowledge about the job, your organization’s ethical considerations or security?

The reality is that you can literally pick someone off the street, anywhere in the world and put them on the payroll if you believe they will be of use. Whilst it’s been this way ever since human travel existed is it really aligned to the modern news business with its sensibilities towards risk assessment and responsible practice? In the most base case you might be putting your personal security at risk but on a wider point, you are also jeopardizing the integrity of your work and the impact it might have on real issues.

Journalists have access to numerous training material and courses in order to go as deep into the academic or practical side as they like but to date, there is no comprehensive initiative aimed at the locals they worked with. At World Fixer we’ve tried to encourage support for a free training platform from various news outlets but the truth is that the appetite isn’t really there amongst the ones we approached. From their side, it seems that the issue isn’t really a problem but for anyone with experience on the ground this simply isn’t true.

This mentality also doesn’t take into account the growing percentage of freelance journalists who contribute to their output and may not necessarily report a lot of the issues they face. As staff jobs dwindle and the independent correspondent role balloons the industry is essentially pushing young (and established) journalists into the field to fend for themselves with little effort spent on the kinds of networks that could help them succeed.

I believe that the kind of information you’d promote through training covers the core issues associated with a journalist’s work. These are:

Standards & Ethics in Journalism

This would provide an insight into the role of media within society and the guidelines by which it must operate in order to produce honest, reliable output. It would include commentary on issues such as professional conduct, balanced assessment, ethical content acquisition and information verification.

Interview techniques & Information Gathering

In the case of no common language, a fixer is the link between a journalist or producer and his subject. It’s important that they can lead the interview to get the right information and relay it clearly and accurately taking into account cultural references and insinuation. How many times has a journalist been in the middle of an interview and felt that they are being told what the person thinks they want to hear – not the actual facts? A solid understanding of the use of interviews and the importance of accuracy is surely invaluable? Whilst interview techniques are an advanced skill there are many guidelines that can be given to encourage the fixer to clearly understand the question and push for a relevant answer.

Outside of interview techniques is information gathering – a fixer using his/her network to source information independently. Again a firm foundation in how to conduct that effectively, ethically & then communicate it clearly are necessary skills.

Risk assessment

This section could be as much a resource as a training tool. Creating clear, downloadable templates which can be understood by those with simple English is the first aspect. The more important aspect would be to teach the fixer to understand that what might not constitute an inherent risk to them may be one for a foreign professional. There are many risks a local might not consider merely because they are surrounded by the every day and they need to open their mind a little to the idea that these are something their client would at least want to consider before going into an area. They need to understand the language of risk assessment forms and familiarise with the concerns of editors, producers, and journalists.

Costs & Budgeting

Projects and working relationships rely on accurate information related to costs and budgeting. At World Fixer around 80% of disputes are centered around misunderstanding from either side related to this. Culturally there can be some discrepancy between issues such as estimated costs and an accurate quote, hidden extras and overtime. Ultimately its something that can be solved with contracts, paper trails, and proper conversations but journalism isn’t excellent at this, especially in the heat of the moment on the ground.

Its necessary to try and educate local fixers to clearly communicate when it comes to finances and take equal responsibility to ensure its understood.

Digital Security

Digital security is not only relevant in a hostile environment setting, all media production demands that employees keep information about their project away from social media or other forms of online publications. This section would explain its importance and gives useful tips for improving digital security in all its forms, providing links to more in-depth resources currently available online.

I believe that armed with a basic understanding of the above, not only would fixers have the tools to further their skills and knowledge about the job but also give a basic grounding to new fixers looking to package their existing capabilities in a way a foreign journalist might see the value. From the journalist’s side, they could have some assurance that the person they hire understands how they work and can conduct themselves in a professional way that doesn’t compromise them or their project.

This training is well suited as an online platform, partly because it would have the potential to reach a larger section of the fixer population, it can be distributed for free and completed quickly if a journalist hires someone in a hurry. A platform could easily generate codes on completion for journalists and news desks to verify when hiring and it could be added to or updated whenever needed.

The costs for such a platform are nominal but in order to gain meaningful traction amongst the fixing population, it has to be something ‘from’ the industry, not aimed at it. By this, I mean that any product that’s made must have the endorsement of several major broadcasters and news outlets for it to be taken seriously enough for everyone to complete it. This doesn’t mean it should be mandatory but it should at least be desired and respected. Sadly, until the established industry accepts the real value in this it may only remain a beta on our laptop.

World Fixer is a database of media fixers and facilitators, with a membership of nearly 7000 globally they strive to make good fixers easier to find and improve working practices. They believe that giving these dynamic individuals a platform to connect with the industry we can raise standards and create transparency.

Mike Garrod previously worked for twenty years in documentary, current affairs and TV in the UK before setting up World Fixer. Ranging from hostile environment to factual entertainment he’s filmed in over 35 countries and worked with some of the best local professionals out there.
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Reflections of EIJ 2017 from a First Time International Student

Traveling has always given me great exposure to the world. I have traveled more than ten countries so far during my student life, but the most recent has been the best one.

The first international conference I have attended in September was SPJ’s Excellence in Journalism conference in Anaheim, Calif. Attending a conference like EIJ17 was my dream since 2013 when I started studying Media and Journalism at the Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore Pakistan.

EIJ17 attracted thousands of the people including media and journalism studies students, researchers, scholars, media practitioners, journalism organizations, universities, marketing companies and news media outlets from throughout the world. Of course, most of them were from the United States, but there were participants from all over the world.

Traveling to the Anaheim, California, was successful because I met a lot of media professionals, research scholars and marketing managers from the media sphere.

  • There were dozens of training sessions, workshops, get together parties and individual meetings and recruitment auditions from world-renowned companies such as CNN, ABC News, CNBC, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Facebook, Google, USA Today, NBC, FOX News, ESPN and The Chicago Tribune.
  • The universities represented included Columbia Journalism School, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Arizona State University, Washington State University, University of Southern California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, Boston University, Emerson College, Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources and the University of Colorado.
  • Advertising and marketing companies represented included The NewsGuild, Nexstar Media Group, Philadelphia Media Network, Quincy Media, RNN-TV, SAG-AFTRA, Samson Technologies, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Think Public Media, TopicPulse, Facebook, Google, and McClatchy.
  • The organizations, associations, and centers represented included the American Association for Cancer Research, American Heart Association, Asian Development Bank, Bloomberg, Bureau of Economic Analysis, The National Library of Medicine, RIAS Berlin Commission and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They were found all under one roof at the conference.

One of the top benefits of attending a conference like EIJ17 was that journalists and students were able to meet media studies department representatives of highly-ranked universities; and secondly, if you needed a coach and understanding of guidelines related to media and journalism field, many options were available to learn.

Even freelancing and internship opportunities, early career training, as well as professional hiring, took place at the same place within three days.

I have observed and seen the American way of reception, welcoming, organizing and executing the conferences, workshops and training programs. I have met almost 50 professionals including journalists, freelancers, media studies students, interns, marketing managers, research scholars, and most importantly, SPJ international community members and one of the local chapter individuals.

The SPJ International Community gives me a lot of energy, support, networking opportunities, exposure, ideas, and motivation. It was not just three days at a conference – it was like I learned an equal to half of my education.

I really enjoyed every moment of the conference and afterward when I visited a friend in Washington D.C. My friend Julio showed us many places around D.C.; it’s a great place and worth seeing. I must say thank you to him because we visited Morgan State University’s School of Global Journalism and Communication and spent time and had a great conversation with professors over white supremacy, media laws, U.S. under the Trump administration and learned much more about the MSU department.

I must say that, after this tour, I have more than 30 professional contacts including university professors, media professionals, freelancers and media students. I recommend all my friends and people who are connected to journalism and made the effort to go to EIJ17. This was especially important for individuals at the student level and mid-career level. I would say it’s equally important as your grades or degree program because in the field of media and journalism you cannot survive without networking and exposure in the field.

I would like to thank the people who made this happen and made my trip memorable and enjoyable:

  • Elle Toussi always supported me from the application process, which also included applying and receiving a visa to visit the U.S.
  • Sharon Dunten always offered me services at every step and made my day great in Anaheim while meeting new colleagues and people.
  • I also enjoyed meeting Dr. Bill Silcock from Arizona State University, Julio Cesar from American Research Institute and Dr. Jackie from Morgan State University, Baltimore.

See you next year in Baltimore, Maryland.

Muhammad Ittefaq is a graduate fellow at the Institute of Media and Communication Science, Technical University, Ilmenau in Germany. He received his first MA from the Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab Lahore, Pakistan. He is a co-founder of The Educationist, an English monthly newspaper of Pakistan and the Asian Journalism Network.  His research interests are social media and public diplomacy and strategic communication, public relations, international journalism, development communication, the role of emerging and new media in strategic communication, the role of social media in the socio-political change in the world, political communication and digital diplomacy. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.

If you or someone you know would like to contribute to the SPJ International Blog, contact spj.internationalcommunity@gmail.com.

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Staying Emotionally and Mentally Strong Is Important as a Photographer, Take Breaks When You Need It

As a high school senior, in lieu of going to college, I decided to travel. With money earned through various jobs, over the next four years, I would travel to more than 30 countries, with my camera as a window into different societies and cultures. As a citizen of one of the world’s richest countries, I was disturbed by the lack of access to education, collapsing infrastructures, and limited technologies in many of the places I saw. Shocked by the disparity, I continuously asked myself, “What will make a difference?” After meeting a photojournalist in Ghana, I realized photographs can expose injustice in a way that humanizes suffering and provokes positive action by compelling people to respond. After years of working, saving, and exploring, I knew I wanted to be a photojournalist. To achieve this goal, I decided to pursue a university education to learn about the world in a different way. I returned home in 2009 to pursue a dual degree in photojournalism and Spanish in Austin at The University of Texas.

As a student I pursued opportunities that not only honed my technical skills through professional experience but also shaped my ethical practices and beliefs. To this day I strive to live and work by the advice of one of my college professors and now my mentor, Donna De Cesare: “You are a human being first and a journalist second.” This belief is most evident in my years-long work with transwomen in Lima, Peru, where I developed close relationships built on trust, allowing me to photograph sensitive subject matter such as death, violence, and substance abuse. This ultimately helped me show a more accurate picture of what trans women face due to societal discrimination and stigmatization. My work in Lima was my first long-term project and it taught me a lot about storytelling. Because ethics and trust are the most important things to me, I spent the first few months simply getting to know the women I would photograph and the neighborhood where they lived and worked. I was always clear about who I was and my intentions, but I wanted to develop a two-way relationship before documenting their lives. Eventually, they opened their doors to me, and because of so much time invested, my foundation and relationship with these women are still incredibly strong.

Working on this project was also the first time I encountered really difficult situations, such as death. The first transwoman I started photographing, Tamara, passed away this year and it was a deeply painful experience. We had grown so close and even called each other “hermana,” or sister. While it felt strange to photograph this part of her life, I knew that I had to in order to show the extent of the life-threatening consequences of transphobia. Sadly, many transwomen share a similar fate throughout Latin America, with most not living beyond 35. I continue to work on this project, but it was necessary to distance myself a bit from it because it was becoming emotionally overwhelming. It’s important to be emotionally and mentally strong as a photographer documenting difficult stories, so when you feel that you need a break, take it.

I have since continued to focus on stories about human rights issues, women, identity, and health, and am currently based in Istanbul. While navigating the photojournalism industry is incredibly difficult, especially as a freelancer, there are some lessons I’ve learned along the way that has helped me tremendously. Make friends. You will have a thousand downs and hundreds of ups; it’s your friends who will help you through the hard times and be there to celebrate with you through the good times. Without the support of friends and family, this profession would be impossible. Be interested. Study and be inspired by photographers and their work, get involved with group projects, start an initiative. This profession is only as rich as you make it. Lastly, don’t give up. You will have thousands of lows and know that you’re not the only one. I try to see the low moments as the times that push me, that makes me re-examine myself and my work, that makes me say “I can do this.” The more you get through the hard times, the easier it gets. Believe in yourself and your love for people and humanity and your passion for sharing that with others. If you can feel the love for what you do and believe in that love, you’ll survive even the darkest hours.

Danielle Villasana is an independent photojournalist whose documentary work focuses on women, identity, human rights, and health. Her work has been published in The New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, PRI’s The World, PBS News, ABC News, News Deeply, and Al Jazeera. She is currently based in Istanbul, Turkey, and contributes to Redux.

You can follow Villasana and her work on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and stay updated on her latest projects on her website at daniellevillasana.com.

Would you like to share your narrative or know a female journalist that would be interested? Please fill out the following form and a member of the International Community will contact the nominee. 

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