Field journalists are daring enough to face the reality of a situation in order to reveal the truth and get the real story. Many have fallen prey to risks that not only hinder their ability to produce a hard-hitting story, but create a situation that could threaten their very lives. It’s crucial to learn what you can do to avoid these outcomes when reporting from the front lines. Here are three of the most common risks that apply to a broad base of field journalists.
Disease and Illness
When abroad, traveling journalists are at risk for mild to severe diseases after being exposed to a foreign environment. To avoid getting sick while in the field and thus jeopardizing your news story, be sure to be aware of the specific environmental risks of the location you’re visiting. For intercontinental travel, this would mean researching water conditions and food quality. Even US-based journalists visiting a neighboring state must look into the local health hazards of a location. For example, that restaurant you visit for lunch could give you food poisoning, so check the Yelp reviews before putting anything in your body that may have harmed others before you.
Legal Troubles or Imprisonment
Even if you have a Master’s in global affairs, there are undoubtedly some important laws you should be aware of in your new location. Do some research before risking becoming imprisoned in a foreign land. Though close to home, visiting a different state or province could be risky if you are unaware of regional laws such as speed limits, cell phone regulations, even eating while driving.
As a journalist, it’s natural to want to push boundaries, but sometimes this could cause a situation that not only prevents you from getting your story, but from leaving the area safely. A lot can be avoided by respecting a region’s local culture. This can come down to a question of altering your personality, such as keeping quiet when you disagree. Remember, your goal is to create a story worth sharing. Remain tactful and polite, so as not to spook the locals and spark suspicion. Before traveling, be sure you are up to speed with the local values and customs.
You may have noticed a common strain in avoiding field journalism pitfalls is research, research, and more research. Now that you’ve gotten some tips, it’s your turn to prioritize and research the stigmas, taboos, and legal regulations of the place you’re visiting. Remember, you have a greater purpose of spreading truth, so don’t get in your own way.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and recent graduate of the University of New Mexico. She writes for many online publications and blogs about home improvements, family, and health. She is an avid hiker, biker and runner. Contact her via twitter @BrookeChaplan.