Asking the crowd to witness war


With a Kickstarter campaign started earlier this week, Boston-based GlobalPost is looking for $95,000 to hire, train and properly equip a conflict correspondent to travel to war zones around the world.

Starting in mid-2015, the temporary position will last for 16 months.

“War reporting is expensive and dangerous, yet it is vital to the public interest,” GlobalPost said on their campaign page.

As of when this story was published Thursday, the campaign has brought in $11,500 from 130 backers. If the campaign succeeds, it will become the fifth most funded project ever in Kickstarter’s Journalism category.

“We’ve believe there’s never been a time when covering conflict matters more,” said Patrick Winn, senior correspondent in Bangkok in the campaign’s pitch video.

GlobalPost turns to the crowd for funding during one of the most dangerous periods of reporting for international journalists on record when reporters are increasingly treated, not as neutral parties, but targets.

More journalists have been killed in the last three years than any other time since the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) began keeping track in 1992.

Nearly half of those killed during that period were in the Middle East, among them James Foley, a GlobalPost contributor decapitated last summer by Islamic State.

These attacks represent “a fundamental threat to independent journalism,” states a letter cosigned earlier this month by GlobalPost and two dozens news organizations around the world.

Budgetary restraints have made international correspondents less of a priority for many news organizations.

The letter demands that news organizations “recognize that local journalists and freelancers, including photographers and videographers, play an increasingly vital role in international coverage, particularly on dangerous stories.”

The Guardian News and Media group, Newsweek and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines later signed on to the letter.

“Locally-based journalists face by far the largest threat and endure the vast majority of murders, imprisonments and abductions. We call on governments, combatants and groups worldwide to respect the neutrality of journalists and immediately end the cycle of impunity surrounding attacks on journalists,” the letter reads. “At the same time, the kidnapping and murder of reporters James Foley and Steven Sotloff brought to light the growing risks faced by international freelance journalists.”

The letter supports the following:

– Editors and news outlets “should show the same concern for the welfare of local journalists and freelancers that they do for staffers.”

– Never assign a story to a freelancer unless the news organization is “prepared to take the same responsibility for the freelancer’s wellbeing in the event of kidnap or injury as it would a staffer.”

– Reporters should procure medical insurance, some training, protective gear and take precautions to avoid mobile and internet tracking.

– News organizations should be concerned for the safety of regular freelancers the same as they are staff when it comes to things like injury, kidnapping, training and security.

Shortly after the founding of GlobalPost in 2009, The GroundTruth Project, an organization to train combat journalists, was created by GlobalPost cofounder Charles Sennott.

See these stories by the Boston Globe and CPJ stories for more information about the rising threat against freelancers and what news organizations are doing about it.


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Khari Johnson
Khari is founder and editor of Through the Cracks: Crowdfunding in Journalism. He also writes about bots and artificial intelligence for VentureBeat. He has built news startups in the U.S. and Europe for the last decade.


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