Friday, December 17, 2010

Rethink your slogan?

The Nation, a daily paper published in Pakistan, maybe should reconsider its online promotion. The dubious tagline at the top of every webpage reads: "The nation is the most incredible of English Newspapers in Pakistan."
Maybe not something to boast about, editors.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Freelancers often must beg for pay

"I’m in the professional equivalent of an abusive relationship,” said Ben Ryan, a low-income freelancer writer who says his former employer owes him $12,925. “I would describe an overriding, constant sense of anxiety. Of course, that’s what the freelancer experience is.”

An opaque terminology accompanies these delays. There are “checks” versus “processed invoices,” “mailed checks” versus “cut checks,” “payments processed” versus “payments in the system.” It was always unclear to me whether any of these terms described real occurrences, actual actions taken, or whether they were merely meaningless placeholders for an action that never took place. There is always something that holds up the payment — a lost invoice to be pursued, a person who went on vacation who is suddenly being replaced by someone else, a contract that wasn’t signed, somebody to follow-up with in another, buried department, until you get to that individual who may have actually laid on eyes on your check.
hat tip to Elizabeth Dwoskin for telling how freelancers face excruciating and humiliating experiences chasing up owed wages.Even at the NY Times?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fixer turns on 'War tourist' hack

Beirut's Moe Ali Nayel takes caustic aim at "war tourist journalism." "I am writing this because I am sick and tired of the stereotypes and narrow angles taken by ignorant and prejudiced foreign observers," he blogs on The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: He is fed up: read An Arab fixer draws a line in the sand. Hat tip to Dion Nissenbaum for this particular rant. And Shame on You, Ruthie. Do your homework. And don't sell out to the startling ...unless you really are getting lots and lots of shekels!

"Last month I had a terrifying experience as journalism betrayed me for the first time in my four years of working as a fixer. When I first met freelance journalist Ruthie Ackerman in a cafe in Beirut in early September, I realized that she did not know anything about Lebanon. Ms. Ackerman had arrived in Beirut to do a story on social networking, but it quickly became apparent that this reporter had not done her homework. Ms. Ackerman did not know who Hassan Nassrallah was. Ms. Ackerman did not know that Saad Hariri was the name of the prime minister of the country who’s coffee she was then sipping. When, later, I took her to see a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Beirut she asked, “Where are the tents?” Ruthie Ackerman’s ignorance of even the current status of a country she planned to write about was, in short, shameful. Though taken by surprise at this, I considered that perhaps her interest in social networking meant her cultural and historical background knowledge could afford to be less than someone writing a more political piece. I was wrong. Ms. Ackerman did not end up writing a piece on social networking in Lebanon, but rather chose to cover the visit of the Iranian president Ahmadinejad to Lebanon. She published these in the Atlantic, and Slate here:
Would it surprise you to learn that Ms. Ackerman did not even know that Ahmadinejad was visiting Lebanon until the very day before, when I (most regrettably) told her? Ruthie emailed me saying, “I had no idea he was coming or I would have planned to be back for it!!” Keep in mind that this visit had been the talk of news agencies around the world (including the USA) for the full two months preceding. Is it any surprise, then, that Ms. Ackerman’s articles fit into a steady stream of ill-informed and orientalist media propounded by journalists in the West and around the world? That her articles promote misinformation, perpetuate cultural stereotypes, and propagate racist caricatures of the Middle East? Does Ruth Ackerman realize how her irresponsible ‘war tourist’ journalism compounds the problems faced by the people of the Middle East in light of the way ‘the West’ views and treats us? In my job as a fixer, I provide foreign journalists with the necessary contacts for a story. I arrange, facilitate, and translate all sorts of social interactions, including interviews with everyone from shoe-shine boys to top governmental figures. As the journalist’s local eyes and ears I am oftentimes the one to provide a foreign journalist with the story—‘the scoop’—itself. In Beirut, where I live and work foreign journalists come to town usually in need of a fixer and I am one such fixer.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Hat Tip to Read here for tweets on Wikileaks

Monday, December 6, 2010

Filkins Jumps to New Yorker

Dexter Filkins, a heavy-duty war correspondent for The New York Times, is heading to The New Yorker, reports Nick Summers in the NY Observer.

"I love the New York Times, and I'm hugely grateful for all they've done for me. I'll miss everyone there very much. The New Yorker has offered me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I'm very excited about it," Mr. Filkins wrote The Observer in an email.

Mr. Filkins, who is in Istanbul today, has been considering the move for two months. Over 10 intense years, he has won numerous awards for his reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other fronts, including the 2005 George Polk Award for his coverage of the battle of Fallujah. Those experiences were memorably chronicled in more personal terms in his 2008 book, "The Forever War."

At The New Yorker, Mr. Filkins won't write exclusively about war—he is expected to weigh in on other topics. To keep Mr. Filkins at the Times, editors there offered him the freedom to write, essentially, whatever he wanted wherever he wanted, whether on the front page or in the Sunday magazine. He has delivered big scoops as recently as two weeks ago—that sensational Taliban impostor story—and his role will be difficult to fill.

"Dex is a huge talent. I've personally written him two Pulitzer nominations," Times executive editor Bill Keller wrote The Observer in an email. "We'll miss him a lot, but I totally understand that after ten years of high-adrenaline, high-risk war reporting, he wants something completely different."

The hire is a coup for David Remnick, who earlier this year persuaded the Times's first choice to edit its Sunday magazine, Daniel Zalewski, to stay at The New Yorker.

Mr. Remnick did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Why we need editors

Email exchange with sharp-eyed Editor:

On Dec 1, 2010, at 10:07 AM, Ms Bird wrote:

Look out kid
It’s somethin’ you did ...

You misquoted Bob Dylan! And in the lead of an article yet!

It's “You don’t need a weatherman to KNOW which way the wind blows.”
(Not "tell").

I have fixed it and saved our credibility.


On Dec 1, 2010, at 10:09 AM, freelancer replied

Whew. I am subterranean homesick about this blooper.
More proof that editors are essential!

Hack Writer


On Dec 1, 2010, at 10:10 AM, Ms Bird wrote:

"Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift ..."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wikileaks filtering needed! Can't staunch em

It's been Wikileaks frenzy all this week, and may well be all the way til Christmas, the way things are going. Some wag said Wikileaks had done to investigative journalism what Napster did to the music industry, but Times of London correspondent James Hider says that it shows we all have just become incredibly lazy, feasting off this giant beached whale. A quarter million uploaded State Department cables, whew! He quipped:

It's more like Napster hacked into the songbook of the world's most successful musicians, stole their music and now we're playing it, pretending it's ours.

Now that Amazon is not hosting anymore, try here, or search the websites of Der Spiegel, El Pais, or The Guardian.