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Journalism lecturer Kathryn Hayes reports on freelance journalism at International Reporting Conference

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By Michaela Keating

Foreign correspondents, media professionals and international journalism educators held a debate of the future of journalism at Macleay College’s inaugural International Reporting Conference on March 25.

The meeting was based in Sydney, Australia across four different time zones, with many of the media professionals joining the debate through Skype. Speakers contributed from Washington, California, London and Limerick.

Macleay College’s head of journalism Stephen Davis said the aim of the conference was to “pose questions” about the future of international reporting.

Keynote speakers were Edward Lucas, an academic, think-tank member and journalist from London, Peter Charley, executive producer of Al Jazeera news network in Washington DC and Professor Randall Smith of the Missouri School of Journalism. Other guests and panelists included former Sydney Morning Herald editor Eric Beecher, ABC head of news content Gaven Morris and ABC News Radio’s Tracey Holmes.

Journalism lecturer at the University of Limerick Kathryn Hayes took part in the debate through Skype from Ireland.

Ms. Hayes spoke of her research on the changing model of freelance journalism, particularly in areas on conflict and how although the conflict is creating work for freelance journalists, the risks have never been higher.

“Of the eighty-one journalists who have been killed since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, the Committee to Protect Journalists estimated that half of these were freelancers”; Ms. Hayes said.

The freelance journalist and lecturer explained that many news organizations were closing international bureaus and refraining from sending staff reporters out on the field. “There are more freelance journalists taking the risks and going to these countries, but they don’t have the appropriate safety measures”.

Ms. Hayes also added that it is essential that media organizations provide safety measures for freelance journalists; “Ultimately there are still some very courageous journalists out there who are committed to bringing the truth home and the media industry has a responsibility to make sure that they come home safely”.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has recently published guidelines for freelance journalists working in these areas of conflict and stress that understanding cultural differences and ensuring that sufficient insurance cover are essential when working in these areas of conflict.

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