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Challenges and opportunities for freelancers in the age of social media

Challenges and opportunities for freelancers in the age of social media

As part of Social Media Week, the Rory Peck Trust was invited to join a panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges for journalism in the age of social media.

Yesterday I was part of a Social Media Week panel discussion, hosted by the Embassy of Sweden, on how social media is increasingly presenting both challenges and opportunities to journalists.

As the Trust's Programme Officer for the Middle East and North Africa, I regularly use social media to research cases of freelance journalists in crisis, to communicate with local contacts on the ground and to keep up to date with events and issues happening in the region.

On the panel with me was Hans Eriksson, Executive Chairman of Bambuser; Rohan Jayasekera who runs Vivarta, a Journalism, Publishing and Creative advocacy start up, and Fergus Bell, Social Media and UGC Editor at Associated Press. The disussion was chaired by Nic Newman, Editor of the Reuters Institute Digital Report. It was a really interesting debate which raised a variety of issues.

In the MENA region, social media has become a vital tool for local freelancers, especially in countries where traditional media outlets have been controlled by the government and / or where international media has no access. Social media and online forums help freelancers - both local and international - share experiences and information on security, logistics and resources. But the challenges are many, especially when it comes to digital security. Social media has been used to track the work and profiles of journalists and sometimes their movements. Its always important to be aware of the digital footprint you are leaving behind, especially if you want to work in places that are hostile to journalists. There are many examples of journalists being abducted or detained and forced to give up the passwords of their social media accounts.

Social media services offer a great outlet for freelance newsgatherers to promote their work, connect with others in the field and identify new projects, but sharing too much can put a freelancer at risk in some situations. For more on using social media safely, see our resource on social network safety.

Sarah Giaziri is the Rory Peck Trust's Programme Officer for Middle East and North Africa. You can follow her on Twitter @Sarah_RoryPeck. Photo courtesy of the Embassy of Sweden UK.

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