Freelancer safety coalition has nearly tripled in 2 months

Since a group of news organizations signed onto a list of freelancer safety guidelines months ago, dozens more have rallied to the cause.

The guidelines, which were released in February, set forth best practices for both freelancers and the news organizations that employ them. As they were released, several major news organizations became signatories, including The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, the BBC and Guardian News and Media Group.

In the ensuing months, a number of major news outlets have added their names to the list, including Bloomberg News, Al-Monitor, Mashable and USA Today.

News of the guidelines — and the number of organizations willing to sign onto them — has spread rapidly in large part because of the dangers that freelance journalists face, said David Rohde, a reporter with Reuters who helped draft the recommendations. Dangerous groups empowered by social media to spread messages without the aid of reporters coincided with a downturn in the media business, which has resulted in more freelancers doing increasingly hazardous work with less protection.

"Everyone, on all sides, freelancers and news organizations, recognizes this as a crisis,” Rohde said.

The guidelines, which are not legally binding, recommend that freelancers learn first aid and wear clothing appropriate to the war zones they work in, among other things. In turn, the recommendations state that news organizations should treat freelancers as they would full-time staffers, helping them in cases of kidnap or injury.

International journalistic associations, some of them in countries that have inimical press freedom climates, have been particularly eager to join the movement, Rohde said. Groups in Iraq, Belarus, the Philippines and Kazakhstan have all lent their support to the measures, which have been translated into Arabic, French, Hebrew, Persian, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. There are now a total of 60 signatories.

"Talking to both sides, news organizations on one hand, freelancers on the other, I’m really encouraged by the common ground," he said.

There are still several high-profile news organizations absent from the list. The New York Times, The Washington Post and the major television networks are not listed as signatories, nor are cable news networks like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.

So far, "a handful" of news organizations of varying sizes have declined to join the coalition, Rohde said. Several of those have said they prefer to keep their standards internal, rather than signing onto a public list of recommendations. But he says as long as the guidelines provoke a discussion about freelancer safety at those places, they have done their job.

"If this provokes private conversations inside news organizations about freelancer safety, that’s success, too.”

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.


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