Journalism can be a thankless job with its low pay, long hours and tremendous risks. Italian war correspondent Francesca Borri penned a harrowing essay about life on the front lines of Syrian combat, a war zone she covers as a freelancer and, against the patronizing advice of others, as a woman.
“People have this romantic image of the freelancer as a journalist who’s exchanged the certainty of a regular salary for the freedom to cover the stories she is most fascinated by,” she writes in an essay for the Columbia Journalism Review. “But we aren’t free at all; it’s just the opposite. The truth is that the only job opportunity I have today is staying in Syria, where nobody else wants to stay.”
The worst part isn’t even just the dangers and the pitiable pay ($70 per piece), as Jezebel notes. It’s the sexism.
“And then, of course, I am a woman. One recent evening there was shelling everywhere, and I was sitting in a corner, wearing the only expression you could have when death might come at any second, and another reporter comes over, looks me up and down, and says: ‘This isn’t a place for women.’ What can you say to such a guy? Idiot, this isn’t a place for anyone. If I’m scared, it’s because I’m sane. Because Aleppo is all gunpowder and testosterone, and everyone is traumatized: Henri, who speaks only of war; Ryan, tanked up on amphetamines. And yet, at every torn-apart child we see, they come only to me, a ‘fragile’ female, and want to know how I am. And I am tempted to reply: I am as you are. And those evenings when I wear a hurt expression, actually, are the evenings I protect myself, chasing out all emotion and feeling; they are the evenings I save myself.”
The jarring glimpse into Borri’s life, chasing exclusives while dodging gunfire, highlights the risks taken by journalists and female reporters in particular. A PayScale analysis of journalism salaries recorded the median this year at $35,195.
Of course, the disparity between men and women exists in this field, too, not just in attitudes and prejudice, as Borri mentions, but in pay.
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