Living Life as a Journalist in Syria

Living Life as a Journalist in Syria

It is December 18th, 2013. Imagine you are a journalist affiliated with a well-known international news source in the United States: the Tatler. Within a remarkable four months, the Tatler has gone global! It's now bigger than CNN and The New York Times combined. You have been asked by your boss, Mary Kuper, to travel to Syria with a group of others associated with this prestigious media source to report on the civil war in the country. The following simulation is a test with the goal of discovering the answer to this question: DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO COVER THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR?

published on December 15, 20137 responses 1 5.0★ / 5

You're so flattered by your boss's offer that you immediately draft a research paper about the history of Syria and submit it to her, just to show off how knowledgeable you are about the conflict. In your paper, what do you discuss as the watershed that marked the beginning Syrian uprisings in 2011?

You're so flattered by your boss's offer that you immediately draft a research paper about the history of Syria and submit it to her, just to show off how knowledgeable you are about the conflict. In your paper, what do you discuss as the watershed that marked the beginning Syrian uprisings in 2011?
You talk about how the Syrian government has been horrible
to its people since the beginning of time, and mention that
you know exactly how you could fix the conflict.
Social and political unrest had been brewing for a long time,
but people began protesting when schoolchildren graffitied a
wall with anti-government slogans and were then arrested
and tortured.
The lack of water in the shed, of course. People didn't have
enough water so they protested out of thirst.

A few days after her proposal, your boss asks you to come in for an interview about possible scenarios you could encounter while reporting on the conflict in Syria to really make sure that you’re ready to be stationed there. If she deems you fit to travel, then you’ll be on the next flight out to Syria. You're a bit nervous but confident that your experience as a journalist will help you in the process. The first answer she asks is a simple one: "Often when you're writing an article in areas of unrest, your sources may wish to remain anonymous. How would you protect a prospective source's identity?"

A few days after her proposal, your boss asks you to come in for an interview about possible scenarios you could encounter while reporting on the conflict in Syria to really make sure that you’re ready to be stationed there. If she deems you fit to travel, then you’ll be on the next flight out to Syria. You're a bit nervous but confident that your experience as a journalist will help you in the process. The first answer she asks is a simple one: "Often when you're writing an article in areas of unrest, your sources may wish to remain anonymous. How would you protect a prospective source's identity?"
"First, I would ask them to meet me somewhere for an
interview. If they can't meet, then I'd settle for a phone call. If
my source wanted to be anonymous, I would assure them
that I would protect them no matter what. It's my article, and
my responsibility, and if they're working with me, then they'll
be working for justice.”
"I would ask around and see who would be willing to meet
and then meet with them privately, either in person, via
email, or via phone. In my article, I would use their first name
only, but write their contact information with my notes. No
one will be able to identify them that way.”
"I would meet with my source in private for an interview and
tell them that I would do everything in my power to maintain
their privacy. I would try my best not to quote directly if they
wished to remain anonymous, and I would be willing to not
use any information that they give me at all if they did not
want me to use it."

The next question your boss asks is also one that you find relatively simple: would you ever use a camera to record any of your interviews?

The next question your boss asks is also one that you find relatively simple: would you ever use a camera to record any of your interviews?
"Yes, because it takes less time to interview that way, and I
can use lighting, special effects, and the simple removal of
my subject from the frame to ensure their privacy.”
"No, because even if a camera is offline, its SD card can be
traced. Bringing any kind of technology to a private interview
is unsafe, and I want my source to know that I'm taking the
best possible care of them. I think taking notes by hand is a
better alternative.”
"Yes, because it takes less time to interview that way, and I
could upload and save my footage on my computer in case
my source ever did want to reveal him or herself."

Your boss continues to question you about various technologies to ensure that you understand the difference between traceable and untraceable media. She asks, "Do you know how to secure your social media and chat accounts and how to go online undetected?”

Your boss continues to question you about various technologies to ensure that you understand the difference between traceable and untraceable media. She asks, "Do you know how to secure your social media and chat accounts and how to go online undetected?”
"Yes—I'd make sure my passwords had at least one number
in them and that when I go on chatting media, like Skype or
Facebook, I'd list myself as invisible.”
"Yes—I would only use internet cafés to go online, because
there I could remain anonymous and thus my web activity
would be untraceable.”
"Yes—I'd use protective websites and software like TOR,
Pidgin, Adium, and Safe Gmail as much as possible, and I
would never put any external media into my computer in
case of viruses or malware.”

Finally, your boss approaches the issue of physical safety. You're aware that reporting in Syria during its civil war is a dangerous activity indeed, and your boss wants to know if you're fully prepared to handle it. She asks you, "What would you do if there was a shooting or a tear gas attack nearby?"

Finally, your boss approaches the issue of physical safety. You're aware that reporting in Syria during its civil war is a dangerous activity indeed, and your boss wants to know if you're fully prepared to handle it. She asks you, "What would you do if there was a shooting or a tear gas attack nearby?"
"I would find cover behind something, like a bush or a tree,
and wait it out. When I'd hear the shooting stop, I'd come
out; if it were a tear gas attack, I'd try to wipe away any
residue from my eyes and skin so it wouldn't do any
permanent damage.”
"I would run and hide behind something solid, like a car or a
rock, or alternatively I would hide in a ditch if I were
alongside a road. I'd wait at least 20 minutes before
resuming normal activity. I'd always carry a bandana and my
water bottle with me so I could devise a wet mask in case of
a tear gas attack.”
"I would make sure the civilians are first accounted for
medically in case of a shooting or a tear gas attack, because
it is my duty as a foreign agent to do so. Then I would focus
on myself and find cover elsewhere.”

Your boss continues in the vein of safety and then asks you, "What would you do if civilians around you were injured in a rebel attack and you were left uninjured? Would you be equipped to handle First Aid, if necessary?"

Your boss continues in the vein of safety and then asks you, "What would you do if civilians around you were injured in a rebel attack and you were left uninjured? Would you be equipped to handle First Aid, if necessary?"
"Yes—first, I would make sure the area surrounding any
injured civilians was safe, and then I tell the victim what I
wanted to do to help them. Then, with their permission, I
would commence CPR or any other necessary procedures and
then call emergency services."
"Of course! I would carry some kind of first aid kid with me at
all times. In case of an injury, I would immediately bandage
the victim and then call emergency services.”
"Although I've never taken a first aid course, I would make
sure to provide any civilians the emotional support they
need, and I would call any loved ones or any emergency
services as soon as I would be able."

Your boss then tells you that while reporting on any issue, it is essential to be as nonpartisan as possible no matter your personal biases. She also explains that armed conflicts like the current one in Syria are extremely dangerous for those associated with the press. With a steely look in her eye, she asks you why you want to go to Syria at all. You respond by saying:

Your boss then tells you that while reporting on any issue, it is essential to be as nonpartisan as possible no matter your personal biases. She also explains that armed conflicts like the current one in Syria are extremely dangerous for those associated with the press. With a steely look in her eye, she asks you why you want to go to Syria at all. You respond by saying:
"To inform U.S. citizens about Syria and to get a feel for what
Syria is like.”
"To protect the freedom of press, to report the truth, and to
fight for the international rights of human beings, no matter
their backgrounds, their political opinions, their race, their
sex, or their ethnicity.”
"To report the truth and only the truth, to save and protect
as many human lives as possible, and to save the country of
Syria from turmoil.”