World Fixer creates worldwide, reputation-based database of fixers

WorldFixer.com
WorldFixer.com

If you worked with a fixer, you know how valuable they can be, and also how difficult they can be to find. Typically, one asks for recommendations from others who have worked in a region to find someone to help with translating, transportation, and access. Now, World Fixer aims to create a worldwide database of fixers for media companies to help facilitate their reporting. This is a huge undertaking and one which requires a method to verify safety and reputation on both sides of the equation. Reporters need to know that the prospective fixer knows what they’re doing and won’t sell the reporter to kidnappers, etc. Fixers need to know that people contacting them for work are actual journalists and not just trying to get personal information so they can kill or kidnap the fixer. Columbia Journalism Review has a good backgrounder on some of the issues at play in the fixer-journalist relationship.

I asked Mike Garrod, one of the founders of World Fixer, a bit about how the site works.

It is common that facilitators let their guard down just because an employer is waving a cheque book but it’s important that they know as much as they can find out before engaging on a project.”Mike Garrod, founder of World Fixer

World Fixer started this year to try and help employers (media, NGO’s and Travel operators) find trusted, local fixers, producers and journalists around the world. The key word here is ‘trusted’ and anyone who has had to use local staff in their ventures will know what can go wrong,” Garrod said over email. So they’ve developed a system for verifying and tracking reputation of both fixers and those who would hire them. Members on the site give confidential references to World Fixer who then call and verify their identity and capabilities. Members can also post testimonials and reviews of individuals they work with through World Fixer. But, he acknowledges that there is “no foolproof system” to ensure trust, and encourages users to perform their own due diligence before working with someone found on the site. World Fixer also offers services to conduct background checks and additional verification of fixers.

Fixers can also work with World Fixer to get background information about the companies and journalists that would hire them. The site encourages users to keep all correspondence on the site so that there is a record in case of any disputes. The fixer-journalist relationship can be unbalanced, Garrod said. “It is common that facilitators let their guard down just because an employer is waving a cheque book but it’s important that they know as much as they can find out before engaging on a project.”

Sites like World Fixer require a critical mass of users to be of any value. Having only started this year, I was curious about how big the database is so far. Garrod says that the founders of World Fixer have 25 years in the journalism business so mined their existing contacts to start. There are now nearly 900 fixers listed in the database and 300 employers have signed up, including independent journalists, BBC News desks, Discovery Channel, ABC, and Save the Children and other NGOs.

Take a look around the site yourself. Garrod said that signups are welcome for fixers, journalists, and media companies. “We are keen to create more work for our fixers in whatever form that comes so [photographers and other journalists] are welcome to [sign up],” Garrod said. Of course, new members must provide contact information so they can be verified before having access to fixer information.

And be sure to check out World Fixer’s blog. There are posts including notes from the field, ideas about physical and data security precautions, and explorations of issues affecting fixers.

UNC reaches settlement with Justin Cook over copyright infringement, will also hold public forum about creative rights

This is wonderful news. After our post–one of this site’s most shared posts–on Justin Cook‘s futile attempts to get the University of North Carolina to acknowledge and correct its infringing usage of one of his photos, the University and Cook have reached a settlement. In a public statement on facebook, Cook wrote:

Yesterday The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and I came to a resolution. They agreed to pay my fee for their use of my image, and I agreed to drop my copyright claim on the condition that the Department of Psychology collaborates with me, the UNC School of Law, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Media Law Center and others to hold an interdisciplinary public forum about the importance of creative rights.

This resolution is a win for everyone that is more meaningful than what any lawsuit could have afforded us, and it’s consistent with UNC’s core values. A community of impassioned friends and strangers united and pushed us to this huge victory that will further build community and foster conversation. That’s The Carolina Way!

Justin Cook, 5 November 2014

This is, indeed, a win for everyone. Cook’s issues with non-payment and infringement have been resolved and the greater community, including the infringing parties, will be working together to educate the public about the rights of creative workers, which I’m sure will include coverage of how to respect the copyright of photographers. I don’t think I could’ve imagined a better outcome.

I’m especially happy for this news. I’ve known Justin Cook basically since my start as a photojournalist, when we spent time together at the Flint Journal in Michigan. He’s a heck of a nice guy and a great photographer. Make sure to check out his portfolio and his most recent project, Made In Durham, a look at the effects of homicide, incarceration and gentrification in Durham, North Carolina.

Gawker: Vice Media staffers and freelancers work for a “pittance”

Vice Media
Vice Media

Freelancers—writers, photographers, illustrators, and otherwise—tell us the rates are low, and that Vice (like many other publications) is often slow in paying them. Salaries at Vice Media and the company’s pay rate for contract work were described to us as “a pittance,” “a fucking joke,” and “so low I couldn’t even consider it, it was offensive.” -Gawker, Working at Vice Media Is Not As Cool As It Seems

I’ve never worked with Vice, but have plenty of friends who have, and I’ve heard horror stories about their pay rates and frequent payment delays. This Gawker piece alleges that the Vice empire has been built on wages and assignment rates that freelancers and staffers describe as a “pittance,” and which they often wait months to receive. A former intern told Gawker that they were offered a full-time job at Vice in Brooklyn with an annual salary of $20,000. A high-level editor at one of Vice’s highest-trafficked sites earns under $40,000 per year. Vice has responded to Gawker’s piece: VICE to Gawker: Fuck You and Fuck Your Garbage Click-Bait ‘Journalism’ but does little to dispute the facts of Gawker’s piece beyond some ad hominem attacks and writing that “entry-level salaries range by department and are competitive with comparable emerging media companies in the digital space.” All of Gawker’s sources are anonymous.

Vice has been doing a lot of things right these days. Vice on HBO is a thought-provoking and wide-ranging series. Vice News has been impressive to watch over the last year or so; the reporters there tackle hard news with depth and wit, often on topics and regions undercovered by other outlets. Simon Ostrovsky’s Russian Roulette series on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is not to be missed. There are creative, weird, and informative pieces periodically published by Vice, such as Mitchell Prothero’s Paintballing with Hezbollah. Vice’s Media Kit (direct pdf link) claims that Vice has over 650 million views on YouTube and the highest watch time of any YouTube channel with original content. Across television, print, and many online publishing outlets, Vice is one of the big successes of the digital media era. The Nieman Journalism Lab had an insightful article about the launch of Vice News which includes some information about the companies financials; selling a 5% equity stake to 21st Century Fox earlier this year means the market value of the company was about $1.4 billion at that time.

Since the Gawker piece came out last week, I’ve seen it posted a few times on social media, and each time have seen comments from freelancers complaining about low rates and long-delayed payments.