The problem with the cutbacks in professional foreign coverage is not just the loss of experience and wisdom. It’s the rise of — and exploitation of — the Replacements, a legion of freelancers, often untrained and too often unsupported. They gravitate to the bang-bang, because that’s what editors and broadcast producers will pay for. And chances are that nobody has their backs.
Bill Keller, It’s the Golden Age of News, NY Times.
Keller points out that despite the fact papers have fewer and fewer experienced correspondents on staff, our access to those who are doing the work is unprecedented (and often free). Cutbacks have led to the rise of freelancers, who often lack the support needed to conduct their work as safely as they ought to be able to. He writes:
Some of them, of course, are tremendously talented, and many prefer freelance work over staff jobs for the freedom to cover what interests them. But for most of them, I suspect, it’s not a choice. Freelance work has long been a way to break into the business of international reporting; nowadays, increasingly, it is the business.
FJP: It’s an important read. I’ve got a friend who, while not a foreign correspondent, has been freelancing in the broadcast industry for years. And while she’s won two Peabody’s for her work, she’s struggled to maintain a livable salary with benefits. The fact that such a dichotomy can exist speaks for itself. —Jihii
For Syria’s war is characterised most strongly by absence and collective abandonment. Other than the protagonists and victims the arena is almost empty. There is no foreign military intervention. There are no NGOs or aid workers distributing food and blankets. The media is similarly self-exiled: very few broadcasters or newspapers commit journalists regularly, if at all. A handful of freelance photographers work inside the country, but none of the big names. The middle-aged bravehearts of Bosnia and Afghanistan have grown old and too soft for the hardships of Syria, while the economics of journalism have not allowed their replacement generation to prosper. That McCullin, still a prizefighter despite his years, had hauled himself out to that lonely war zone was inspiring in itself, legitimising the work of the few freelancers already there and challenging the absentees.
Anthony Loyd, The Australian. Parting shots.
That’s right: a 77 year old photographer named Don McCullin recently went to Aleppo to take his last set of photos, 15 years after his last war assignment. See the above article for an account of his trip as told by the much younger journalist in charge of his safety.
There’s no telling which photos from Syria’s revolutionary war will become famous and come to represent the conflict, if any do at all. For a great collection of pictures by other photojournalists in the country, see these. For more of McCullin, who is something of a legend in his line of work, see this bio and a portion of his photography from Vietnam and Lebanon.