ICE blogs

September 6, 2009

Revealed: the hidden role of fixers

Filed under: Blogroll, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 10:43 am

Fixers play crucial roles in the production of foreign news - yet they are rarely given the credit they are due, according to Colleen Murrell, senior lecturer in journalism at Deakin University, Melbourne.

Writing in the latest edition of the Australian Journalism Review, Murrell argues that correspondents need fixers to achieve relative autonomy in story production. ‘They need them to be their “eyes and ears” on location.’ Based on an analysis of interviews with 20 foreign correspondents and five fixers, she concludes that the foreign correspondent is rarely the sole editorial figure on the road but is, instead, the main actor representing the creative interplay of a succession of fixers or ‘local producers’.

The dangerous situation in Iraq has made the BBC change its policy of hiring local fixers from short-term to long-term contracts, with fixers playing increasingly important editorial roles. ‘As if to underline this change, correspondents and fixers from the BBC have begun to use the term “local producer” rather than fixer.’

In another paper, Gail Phillips, of Murdoch University, in Perth, argues that television news projects an archetypal image of ‘white Australia’ instead of a range of peoples and cultures. ‘More disturbingly, when we do encounter people from manifestly different racial, cultural or religious backgrounds, they tend to be featured as victims or as social deviants, or as in some way “unAustralian”.’

Phillips suggests reporters need to be encouraged to build relations with people from ethnic minorities so they don’t feel like strangers when they are doing a story.

  • For details on subscriptions to the Australian Journalism Review, contact Jolyon Sykes, treasurer of the Journalism Education Association of Australia, PO Box 5, Thirroul NSW 2515, Australia; email: jolyonsykes@bigpond.com

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