AUCKLAND, New Zealand— “Hrant Dink was one of the journalists who inspired me to research this topic, and I wish I could have had the opportunity to interview him for this book,” said Dr. Maria Armoudian, whose second book, Reporting from the Danger Zone: Frontline Journalists, Their Jobs and an Increasingly Perilous Future, was just released. “Hrant was one of a class of journalists who was willing to brave some very precarious situations to improve the lot of his fellow countrymen, and he paid the ultimate price. I couldn’t interview Hrant Dink. But I did interview 32 other frontline journalists, many who, like Hrant, risk their liberties, limb and lives, to do good journalism.”
Journalism has long been a dangerous business for those whose beats were warzones, authoritarian governments or organized crime. But today’s danger zone journalism is more perilous than ever before, so much so that major media organizations refuse to allow their journalists to cover some regions or to accept freelance material from there.
Reporting from the Danger Zone: Frontline Journalists, Their Jobs and an Increasingly Perilous Future (Routledge 2016) explores this changing world and what it means for frontline reporters—both foreign and local correspondents—how they navigate in these environments to do their jobs, what they risk and face, and ultimately why we receive some stories but not others. Kidnappings, torture, detention and post-traumatic stress are some of their experiences—which can impair a journalist’s ability to continue in the profession. This book tells these stories behind the stories we receive.
Many factors have changed the equation, among them, the Internet. With new communication technologies, fighters no longer need journalists to tell their stories, instead disseminating their unfiltered messages and frames directly to the public, free from the check of independent journalism. And though the internet also gives voice to oppressed citizens to communicate outside of closed borders, it has simultaneously empowered groups such as the Islamic State to expand their reach to persuade and terrorize.
In this new equation, journalists are part of the story, rather than conduits of stories. The harrowing public displays of their deaths are part of the information wars waged by extremists. The gruesome public killings of correspondents capture attention, induce grief across the globe, and project power and persuasion for new recruits.
These developments, joined by diminishing capacities of the media industry itself, further threaten ethical journalism, which has historically countered propaganda and hate messages used by extremists for genocidal or near genocidal causes.
Alongside long-term economic pressures, the trends further reduce the capacity of news organizations to deliver much needed understandings about these developments. Armoudian’s new book explores some of these complications of danger zone journalism, how journalists deal with them, and how the job is changing. Based on more than thirty interviews with danger zone journalists past and present, it explores how journalists navigate obstacles in a changing global context to deliver the stories they believe are important. Through retelling their journeys, we gather insight into the factors explaining the stories we do or do not receive in our daily supply of news.
Reporting from the Danger Zone is Dr. Armoudian’s second book. Her first, Kill the Messenger: The Media’s Role in the Fate of The World, showed how mass media can affect life and death situations. Armoudian is a political scientist, who teaches at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and the host of The Scholars’ Circle syndicated radio program and podcast. She will be speaking in Los Angeles in September.