Back To Career News

On the Front Line: Life as a Female Journalist in Syria


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.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

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.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you think about the Borri’s perspective on freelance war correspondence? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

More from PayScale

Job Interview Questions That Will Catch You Off-Guard

5 Things NOT to Say in a Job Interview

7 Confessions of Job Interviews Gone Wrong

(Photo credit: DVIDSHUB / Flickr)

Jennifer Wadsworth
Read more from Jennifer

Leave a Reply

Notify of
What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.