When a foreign news item gets published or a reporter stands in front of a camera from the scene of a story in a conflict zone, you could be forgiven for thinking that individual was the start and finish of the journalistic process.
But if queried, there are few journalists who would not identify the importance their fixer – the man or woman on the ground who secured the critical interview, gained access to the all-important location, who read between the lines when the situation was rife with local complexity. In short, a fixer knows how to navigate the news terrain and open doors the way few foreign correspondents will ever have enough local knowledge or language skills to be able to do themselves.
Early warning system
More than being a foreign correspondent’s eyes and ears, the best fixers can also be the reporter’s early warning system too. Being close to a story in a conflict zone often means that danger is only one wrong turn away and fixers, while not always acknowledged in this role, have to become security specialists too – sometimes putting themselves in the firing line as a consequence.
Finding a good fixer
With the foreign news and reporting landscape changing from being the sole domain of large agencies to one that includes individual freelance reporters, finding a good fixer is a huge challenge for an individual without experience in a new country. Knowing the risks of reporting from conflict zones, how does the freelancer find a fixer and more importantly know that they possess the necessary skill sets and temperament for the task? Understanding the motivations of a good fixer is also fundamental – are they in the work for love or money? Reputation, in this case, is everything.
Unless the freelancer has contacts to point him and her to the best sources, organisations like World Fixer are another route to getting fixed in a faraway place. Their website provides a database of people that specialise in being the guide by your side. Membership to their website permits users to search their database and build a network of fixers worldwide, while the user forum permits interaction with other members for references on individuals. The site also offer a secure internal mail service for direct communication to get that critical person with the right references.
In a troubled areas and conflict zones, reporters are the first to walk away when their jobs are done. Fixers can’t. They’re locals, dealing with their local situation and managing an often dicey existence in areas where trust is the most precious commodity of all.