There are two distinct narratives for journalists covering the same story for a long time: the story they publish, and the story they tell themselves or their friends over a beer. Producer Carrie Ching wants to reveal those untold personal stories with her new Vice web series, Correspondent Confidential, which screened last night at the Explorer’s Club on the Upper East Side. Every episode is a brief, animated tale told by a reporter, and a different artist illustrates each one.
Last night, the audience watched the first two episodes of the series. In the first one, filmmaker Mimi Chakarova describes going undercover as a prostitute to document conditions in the red light districts of Turkey and Dubai. And in the second episode, ProPublica reporter T. Christian Miller recounts with surprising humor how he was abducted by Colombian rebels while working for the L.A. Times in 2002.
Afterwards, Foreign Policy’s Noah Shachtman moderated a discussion with Ching, Miller, Vice founder Suroosh Alvi and Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“The people who suffer the most when some journalist parachutes into a foreign country are the locals who help him,” Miller says in his episode, and the gathered journalists agreed. “I think the most important thing to remember when you’re going into a hot zone is: is it worth my life? And is it worth the life of whoever is helping me?” he added during the discussion.
And many people who take up reporting in war-torn, unstable countries in Syria did not start out as professional journalists. They’re regular, local people — activists, soldiers, farmers — who felt they needed to get the word out about the atrocities happening under their countries’ oppressive regimes.
“Eighty-eight percent of journalists killed abroad are local journalists, who are working on their own stories and can’t just get a visa or get on a plane and leave,” said Simon, citing CPJ’s extensive research on attacks on journalists.