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.

Worth a listen: Lynsey Addario interviewed on Fresh Air

It's What I Do - by Lynsey Addario
It’s What I Do – by Lynsey Addario

Photojournalist Lynsey Addario was interviewed last week by Terry Gross on WHYY/NPR’s Fresh Air for the release of her memoir, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War (at right). The interview is wide-ranging, but specifically address Addario’s experience being kidnapped with three other photographers in Libya in 2011. I wrote about that kidnapping and their release previously. You can listen to the interview in the above embedded player or at NPR’s website.

Fresh Air doesn’t often feature interviews with photographers, but last year, they spoke with Tyler Hicks about his Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Nairobi shopping mall attack. That post has links to a few other photographer interviews from the show over the years.

Make sure you also read the New York Times Magazine’s recent piece by Addario about working while pregnant, it’s an adaptation of parts of her book. The Lens blog also featured Addario and other photojournalists last year in a piece about balancing parenting with the life of a photojournalist.


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Publishers’ coalition releases Global Safety Principles and Practices for covering dangerous assignments and working with freelancers

The undersigned groups endorse the following safety principles and practices for international news organizations and the freelancers who work with them. We see this as a first step in a long-term campaign to convince news organizations and journalists to adopt these standards globally. In a time of journalistic peril, news organizations and journalists must work together to protect themselves, their profession and their vital role in global society.” Global Safety Principles and Practices

Last week at a Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma event, a coalition of publishers and journalism organizations released a set of Global Safety Principles and Practices intended to guide news organizations in how to work with freelancers and local journalists on dangerous assignments. It’s an ambitious but needed step, as so many deaths reminded us last year.

The document was signed by a host of news organizations from around the world, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, BBC, Agence France Presse, McClatchy DC, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the Overseas Press Club Foundation, National Union of Journalists-Philippines, the Associated Press, and others. It’s a short document, but covers a lot of ground. Poynter has some additional background on the creation of this document.

The first section of the Principles and Practices guides journalists in ways to prepare for dangerous assignments, recommending first aid training, minimum safety gear, and preparations that may assist family and authorities in the case of kidnapping or death. The second section, aimed at news organizations themselves, stresses the disproportionate dangers faced by local journalists and freelancers. It states that news organizations should not contract with freelancers unless the organization can afford the same precautions and responsibilities it does for staffers and that freelancers should be paid on time and in a fair manner accounting for the additional costs of insurance, hazardous environment training, and safety equipment required for reporting dangerous assignments.

The document is a great step forward as conflict reporting increasingly shifts to local journalists and freelancers.

For more information about this subject, visit the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Rory Peck Trust, Global Journalist Security, RISC, International News Safety Institute, and the Frontline Freelance Register.