CBC Digital Archives

Foreign correspondents mull the 'fixer'

An international correspondent's life can be exhilarating — the travel, the adventure, the sense of being right in the middle of where it's all happening. But it can also be very risky, especially in a war zone. And it can take an emotional toll on even the most seasoned journalist. The job comes with ethical and philosophical considerations, not to mention practical questions — like what do you pack? From the Second World War to present day, CBC Archives examines what it's like to be a CBC journalist abroad.

media clip
In reporter Bill Gillespie's opinion, the most important decision a foreign correspondent makes is who will be hired as your "fixer." What's a fixer? It's basically your translator and guide during your time in a foreign country. "They're really your safety net," he explains in this 2003 radio clip. But how do you choose the right fixer? Gillespie says "you need someone who has respect and standing in the community. That's the way you get doors opened." 
• American foreign correspondent Lori Montgomery has said that when she first became a foreign reporter, she was amazed to learn about fixers. She was very impressed by all the ways they make your job easier as a journalist abroad. "I'm trying to figure out how, when I come back, I can have a fixer here," she joked in a 1999 Detroit Free Press article.

• Being a fixer can be a risky business. Dangerous Assignments (the Committee to Protect Journalists' biannual journal) wrote about the subject in a 2004 article. Fixers increasingly face serious consequences — risking injury or death on a regular basis — for their work with foreign journalists. "Fixers are subject to local retaliations more than we are. And that's the case almost anywhere," explained Juan Tomayo of the Miami Herald. "We do our story, we leave. They stay."
Medium: Radio
Program: Sounds Like Canada
Broadcast Date: May 25, 2003
Guest(s): Bill Gillespie, Laura Lynch
Host: Bernard St. Laurent
Duration: 11:47

Last updated: January 23, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

1939-1945: A Soldier's War

From 1939 to 1945 Canadian soldiers, sailors and air force personnel lived and died in lands f...

The Berger Pipeline Inquiry

It was going to be the biggest private construction project in history. But before a pipeline ...

The Italian Campaign

A full year before the D-Day landings in Normandy, there were the Allied invasions of Sicily a...

Woodstock Remembered

They say if you can remember Woodstock, you weren't really there. Of course, that's not entire...

Barbara Frum: Pioneering Broadcaster Part 2

The sudden death of Barbara Frum on March 26, 1992 shocked Canadians. The loss of one of the c...

Barbara Frum: Pioneering Broadcaster Part 1

The sudden death of Barbara Frum on March 26, 1992 shocked Canadians. The loss of one of the c...