Some [freelancers], of course, are tremendously talented, and many prefer freelance work over staff jobs for the freedom to cover what interests them. But for most of them, I suspect, it’s not a choice. Freelance work has long been a way to break into the business of international reporting; nowadays, increasingly, it is the business.
— Bill Keller in The New York Times

There is candor in Southeast Asia and there is subtlety. I have learned that gathering information in the region often requires more discernment than in straight-talking Western societies.
— Thomas Fuller in The New York Times

Our job is to find out ourselves, our job is not just to say – here’s a debate. Our job is to go beyond the debate and find out who’s right and who’s wrong about issues. That doesn’t happen enough. It costs money, it costs time, it jeopardises, it raises risks.
— Seymour Hersh in The Guardian

Even today, nearly two months after a popular revolution removed Mr. Morsi in July, Media City remains under threat by the Brothers, who accuse the media of being the prime instigators of the revolt against Mr. Morsi and the Brotherhood. The power of reporters and commentators to lead a revolution would come as a surprise to my colleagues, whose open secret is a constant despair at being unable to change much of anything.
— Ibrahim Essa in The New York Times

Truth itself here is more slippery. Indonesians, like many Southeast Asians, tend to like to avoid conflict of any sort. It’s not uncommon to be told two completely contradictory things in one sentence, and end up with no clue if that person truly means both things, just one of them, or neither. Entire monologues in the Indonesian language can be a jumble of meaningless acronyms and dodgy words, the dross left behind by the old authoritarian regimes. Politicians here, as anywhere, lie, but they do it with an artlessness that shows how rare it is for them to be called out on it.
— Aubrey Belford in The Global Mail

2012 was the joint second worst year on record for journalists, with 70 confirmed dead worldwide and more deaths being investigated. Kidnappings are also on the rise. The question is: what has changed? Has journalism changed or has war? Are reporters taking more risks to tell their stories, or are the conflicts they now cover inherently more dangerous?
Ed Caesar in GQ

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. 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. And it’s not even Aleppo, to be precise; it’s the frontline. Because the editors back in Italy only ask us for the blood, the bang-bang. I write about the Islamists and their network of social services, the roots of their power—a piece that is definitely more complex to build than a frontline piece. I strive to explain, not just to move, to touch, and I am answered with: “What’s this? Six thousand words and nobody died?
— Francesca Borri in The Columbia Journalism Review

This is one of the central paradoxes of our culture—everything is swallowed into oblivion but nothing goes away. On the screen, it’s no longer clear who is in charge of the words, or at what point they cross the line between being a fluid, rearrangeable thing in your mind and being a verifiable statement made in public, on the record, for which you may one day have to answer. Many people are worried, understandably, that everything we do—online and off—is retrievable by the government. But what about everything we think? How much space do we afford ourselves for private thought?
— Thomas Beller in The New Yorker

When I was nearly done with this piece, I got curious and asked what I was getting paid. The answer is $250. Honestly, that seemed fair. Still, I think it’s worth more, and I would have done it for less.
— Noah Davis in The Awl

In a cash-strapped era where long-term professional assignments have become virtually non-existent, freelance journalism is both a legitimate career choice and an essential component of the international news cycle.
— Anna Therese Day in The Huffington Post

Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.
William Zinsser, author of “On Writing Well,” in The New York Times

It was a profoundly depressing experience. Rarely have I seen ethnic or religious hatred of such intensity, or felt so little hope of reconciliation. And, as a reporter, never have I been so close to a big story and so unable to research it properly or even to convey its importance to the outside world, to which news of the carnage across Rakhine state only gradually filtered out.
Banyan in The Economist

The real tragedy of journalism-as-narcissism is not the general pettiness of the stories it produces; it is the other, better stories that never get produced as a result.
— Hamilton Nolan in Gawker

There are ingredients, but actually quite often, when you don’t have the ingredients, it still ends up being good, and sometimes even better, so it shows you should never have too many hard and fast rules. But I think at best, it’s a real mystery.
— Jon Ronson in The Awl

Nobody is representative. That’s just narrative nonsense. People may be part of a larger story or structure or institution, but they’re still people. Making them representative loses sight of that.
—  Katherine Boo in Guernica

It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write.
— George Orwell on why he wrote

A sequence is like a sermon. This happened and that happened and here’s what it means. It took me years to learn that. It’s a sermon. I feel like someone who went into his basement and invented something that everybody already owned.
— Ira Glass in The New York Times Magazine

Being an object of compassion is not the same thing as being the subject of a story. It wasn’t then, and it isn’t now. In American newspapers and on American TV, Africans remain objects — of violence, of poverty, of disease, and ultimately of our own compassion. Like the abolitionists’ stories of the Jamaican slave revolt, our compassion narratives ultimately are not about the people in whose name they are told. They are about us. We like these stories because at some level, we already know them, and because they tell us we are caring, and potentially powerful, people.
— Jina Moore in The Boston Review