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The First Freelance News Safety Survey

The Frontline Club’s News Safety Initiative was launched on 8 May 2012 with a meeting of news industry decision-makers, leading practitioners and freelances, at the Frontline Club. The meeting was a great success and it was clear that everyone wanted us to take the best ideas forward.

So, chaired by Richard Sambrook, we are pulling in many of the events attendees and other parties to properly think through the ideas that came up before re-presenting them. We will look for workable refinements on duty of care issues, consider how safety training might cover new threats, study how freelance insurance could deliver and think how best to launch a safety 'Kitemark' for freelances. We aim to report at the end of September.

It is clear that the Frontline Club can play a collaborative role in promoting workable ideas on news safety. Our relationship with practitioners, the club’s members, and our history in freelance journalism places us in a unique and complimentary position to other bodies that promote news safety, like INSI or the CPJ.

To inform the 8th May meeting I sent out survey to freelance photojournalists, video journalists and newspaper stringers. Below are links publishing the results.

The Frontline Club Freelance Safety Survey is the first survey of its kind. Freelances play an ever-increasing role in gathering the news, their importance to journalism is unlikely to diminish but their voices are rarely heard on issues like news safety. It is clear that they need to be.

In 1989, when Peter Jouvenal, Rory Peck and Nick della Casa and I launched the Frontline News Television agency, we were completely dependent on the established news industry to purchase and publish our work. This is changing, particularly for photojournalists who increasingly fund their work elsewhere, viewing the established industry as a partner or outlet rather than an employer.

Personally, I believe that freelances have become journalism's great hope. For as long as I have been in news they have complimented the mainstream output and with most overseas bureaux a thing of the past they help fill widening gaps.

At Frontline News Television we learned from the news industry. We weren't welcomed by it, but we soon realised that to be accepted we had to subscribe to journalism's ethics and did so fully. The survey tells us that today's freelances will do the same thing now on safety and since freelances mentor each other good practice can be spread.

In the survey I ask freelances the question, "If the Frontline Club launched a representative body for independent journalists, cameramen and photographers would you support this and continue to contribute your opinions?", 90.7% of respondents indicated "Yes, wholeheartedly", 8.8% said that 'It was a good thing but they wouldn't participate” and only 0.5% that this "Was not interesting".

While we consider it how to best deliver on this mandate, the Frontline Club will continue to gather freelance views and present them as helpfully as possible. I am personally convinced that an industry recognised 'Kitemark', won through demonstrating a professional approach to news safety and the promotion of the highest freelance reporting ethics will serve freelances and journalism well.

This link publishes Frontline Club Freelance Safety Survey 1, showing the comments by those who left them. 

Freelance Safety Survey 1 - Full

The following three links illustrates where answers between photojournalists, video journalists and newspaper stringers are significantly different.

Freelance Safety Survey 1 - Photojournalists

Freelance Safety Survey 1 - Video Journalists

Freelance Safety Survey 1 - Newspaper Stringers

N.B. In the interests of openness I am happy to receive requests to audit this survey. Note that I have removed respondents where I was satisfied that they had no actual experience working in conflicts.