Assignment 1: Vice Media

Working Freelance in the media sector is one of the most common ways young professionals enter the industry, and has been the case for many years; a point proven by commentator and senior football reporter at BBC Radio 5 Live Ian Dennis, who wrote to John Motson 26 years ago as a young boy asking about careers in sports broadcasting and in the correspondence he received it pointed out that freelance work can establish yourselves in the minds of employers.

If Vice Media, known for being ‘urban trendsetters’ in their field, were to employ myself on a freelance contract, the way in which I were to manage myself would be crucial. Firstly, the area I were to specialise in and the resources I’d need to become successful would need to be confirmed. As the organisation is unique for its controversial, gonzo-style approach to journalism, my specialist area of news, and in particular war reporting, would contribute to their global coverage. Some of the pieces they produce are areas that may not be familiar to a mainstream western audience, including topics such as arms trades in the Middle East and uncovering The Columbian drug industry, so being a war reporter for Vice in times of conflict in multiple areas of the world would be an obvious asset to them.

Resources that would have to be obtained include both physical and legal requirements. In terms of equipment, items such as notebook, pens, dictaphone, laptop and the relevant software. The option to outsource a cameraman, one possibly made through contacts made on the journey whilst progressing in the sector, could also be variable. As the environment would be in war-torn areas, the purchasing of body armour and helmets is a necessity. As well as equipment, the ability to use and operate them is vital which would have long been formed prior to this contract offer by Vice Media.

Working overseas, the correct documentation must be in order; from passports, visas and work permits. One of these aspects is insurance that has to be factored in to expenses. Taken from ‘i100.independent.co.uk‘, data from the Commitee To Protect Journalists showed that 40 journalists have been killed in 2014 up to now with the most dangerous countries being Syria, Iraq and the Ukraine. When purchasing insurances, the types of cover that should be included range from basic travel and medical to life insurance, repatriation after death, professional indemnity; that would account for issues of breach of contract or copyright infringement, and also in the case of kidnap and ransom. Furthermore, in a foreign country, a translator or guide would be needed to navigate through the country and understand their people’s language.

In the creative industry, reputation is paramount when wanting interest from clients, and this stems from the professionalism and the manner in which you conduct yourself in a working environment, so that employers feel confident and assured about your abilities. The traits of a professional journalist are those who are reliable; able to meet deadlines and are able to manage their time accordingly and the work they produce should always be to the highest standard. Communication is key, not just between a journalist and their employer, but they will also be in contact with the public, so to have someone presentable and confident in the way they come across is important as it reflects on both the individual and the company. It is not just the employee who has to demonstrate professionalism; the employer must respect their workers, be approachable and, something we will look at in more detail shortly, commit to terms outlined in the contract agreed by both parties.

Health and safety requirements as a freelance war reporter are specialised to say the least; not only do the fundamentals need to be in order, such as all safety checks carried out in the office environment and all equipment tested for use. But as mentioned earlier, there are many dangers for a war correspondent in areas of conflict- with the worst possible outcomes being kidnap or death. A young journalist, possibly not hardened to the sights, sounds and smells of war may find what they experience difficult, so emphasis needs to be placed on the physiological well-being of the individual; making sure support is at hand if it is needed through counseling or other means. If neglected, conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), may be the result of what they encounter.

Gaining more insight into the parameters of what goes into a contract after working in small groups drawing up terms between two parties so that a negotiation can be made, we looked at the scenario of the commissioner of Manchester United Football Club signing Cristiano Ronaldo and included things such as signing fee and salary, add-ons such as bonus’ and also marketing and image rights. By using the ‘wikihow guide to creating a freelance contract’ we could practically demonstrate how to present it in a formal manner. The main elements of a contract include;

  • Duration
  • Legal Ramifications
  • Finance
  • Notice Period (Or lack of)
  • The Brief itself

As a Freelance journalist, there are many types of contract a journalist can work under. If a commissioner and a worker agree on a contractual brief then there is a contract binding them together that would be upheld under the law, meaning if any of the terms were to be broken, then legal action could be actioned against the accused. A contract can also be negotiated between two parties and revolve around areas such as cost, content or even wording. As a freelance journalist, care should be taken before signing contracts and cautious of unfair or unequal agreements as the onus would rest on the individual. Many Freelancers have to face many hardships including the possibility of getting paid late, or even not getting paid at all, not having the same employment rights as full-time workers, and persevering to agree terms against big businesses that may daunt them. Members of the National Union Of Journalists (NUJ) can turn to the Freelance Industrial Council for help with contractual matters. A quote taken from freelance journalist Anton McGabe who spoke of why he is a member of the NUJ;

I’m a member of the NUJ because, as a freelance, I am a vulnerable worker. Thus I need the collective strength of the union to defend me. Within NUJ, there is still much of that old spirit – an injury to one is an injury to all. Additionally, the union is protection against all that is worst in society: the agenda of greed and bullying that is now on the offensive. The union stands for the opposite of that, for the values of humanity.

There are multiple types of contract which are used in specific areas of business such as full and part-time contracts, and shift work; commonly used in retail. A fixed term contract refers to an agreement for a period of time that sees the individual still being classed as self-employed and not an employee of the cilent; with them both parting ways after the completion of the job. A downside to fixed term contracts is the uncertainty workers face not knowing when the next job will present itself to them and facing financial worries. Aside from a possible lack of income, individuals have to manage their finances accordingly and declare their earnings for tax purposes to the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue’s & Customs) and fill out a Self Assessment Tax Return form which normally needs to be handed in at the end of October.

These contracts could end abruptly if terms are not met; including breach of contract, an agreement that would be classified as conducted with the use of unfair pressure or when something prevents the progression of what is proposed by both parties but is not considered breaking the law.

Managing myself financially as a freelance journalist working with Vice Media would be essential to both sustain and support my chosen career. Having the freedom to find other work to provide funds for equipment or necessities is a strength to being Freelance. It is common for young aspiring journalist in particular to work in areas such as retail or administration to fund themselves and use the money for items that will be an investment for the future development of a worker in the creative industry.  This avoids the risk of debt but impacts negatively on the time you have to commit to your chosen career path. As mentioned earlier, the importance to keep on top of your sources of income and keep hold of paperwork such as invoices, receipts and bank records. Internet sites such as BudgetTracker.com can help keep a physical record of these things.

Finally, a bank loan could be used to inject capital into your development, or even propose to venture into starting your own business as we looked at hypothetically using Barclay’s Business Plan; looking at ways in which to provide funding for a small business- criteria looked at included such things as what the business would do, its short and long-term goals, the services it would offer and how customers would access the product. Below is an example of a Business Plan prepared by myself and Danny Hughes;

Business-plan-generator-Barclays

The bank loan would, if used optimally, provide a solid foundation that would give me security throughout my time with Vice Media until I had established myself from a freelance contractor into a permanent employee of an organisation such as Vice or another media outlet.

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