Credit Crunch Journalism

Africa is a big continent. The road network is not good. The rail network is non-existent. Getting from A to B can be very expensive.

Last week one of my newspapers asked me to go to Tanzania. They gave me the name of the village, but no, they had no other idea where it was. I did the reseach. Read up on the story, found the village, reserved seats on a flight, made enquiries about hiring a car and finding a translator.

The cost was going to be $1100, about $500 of which was simply the flight. With the pound now running so low against the dollar this would be a hefty investment for a newspaper that paid in Sterling. Thanks very much, they said, but that’s too much.

The credit crunch is affecting everyone. I’m a freelancer who has managed to spread his work across lots of outlets and kept costs down for all of them. So far I haven’t lost out too badly. Sure I could probably have got the price down further on this trip – slept in a scummy hotel, driven rather than flown – but $1100 was still a pretty reasonable price. And a cheaper trip would have eaten into my own pay as I would have spent longer on the road for the one story.

As it is, I have lost out on half a day’s pay for setting up the trip. I could bill the editor but part of me thinks this is not the time to make a fuss.