Francesca Brolli on freelancing in Syria


Read this.

It is perhaps the most raw, emotional piece of writing that I have yet read on the Syria conflict — even though, strictly speaking, it is not a war article. It is the story of one woman’s experiences working as a freelance war journalist.

Italian journalist Francesca Brolli writes in the Columbia Journalism Review from Aleppo:

Freelancers are second-class journalists—even if there are only freelancers here, in Syria, because this is a dirty war, a war of the last century; it’s trench warfare between rebels and loyalists who are so close that they scream at each other while they shoot each other. The first time on the frontline, you can’t believe it, with these bayonets you have seen only in history books. Today’s wars are drone wars, but here they fight meter by meter, street by street, and it’s fucking scary. Yet the editors back in Italy treat you like a kid; you get a front-page photo, and they say you were just lucky, in the right place at the right time. You get an exclusive story, like the one I wrote last September on Aleppo’s old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, burning as the rebels and Syrian army battled for control. I was the first foreign reporter to enter, and the editors say: “How can I justify that my staff writer wasn’t able to enter and you were?” I got this email from an editor about that story: “I’ll buy it, but I will publish it under my staff writer’s name.”

This is not a new piece — it was published several months ago — but it is an important one, not only for those working in the media, but for everyone who consumes journalism.