I’ve just gotten back from a few weeks of reporting on war crimes in Ukraine, which meant taking photos, notes, audio and video between air raid sirens and amid the wreckage of Russian armored vehicles or the destroyed cars of Ukrainian civilians.
While I was there, missiles hit a couple miles from where I was staying. Fortunately, I had body armor and medevac insurance (about $1,700) in case things got too close, but all of this work is extremely expensive. As a freelancer, I paid for the trip out of my own pocket, and the assignments I have lined up will barely cover a fraction of the costs, which I estimate to be around $10,000.
Freelance journalists are in a tricky position: Being unattached to a particular outfit means we have the freedom to go places that salaried journalists may not be allowed to explore, but it also means that most, if not all, the expenses are on us.
One of the outlets I’m writing for may cover the cost of my body armor (about $1,600) — a vest with rifle plates, and a ballistic helmet — but as far as I can tell, the rest is all me: the cost of my fixer and driver (about $3,000), hotels, meals, planes, trains, busses, gas and the equipment I use to create stories.
Your support would help me to not only recoup the costs of a sensitive and stressful reporting trip I’ve taken in order to show what’s being inflicted upon the Ukrainian people, but it will also allow me to keep doing this kind of reporting in the future.
I have been covering conflict and violence by choice for nearly two decades — mainly out of my own pocket — telling the stories of people suffering in war; people who have endured torture, rape, imprisonment, displacement or any number of traumas. It is a specialized field, and I do my best to not retraumatize my sources, and to protect them at all costs. I’ve worked on such stories from Central America to the borders of Syria to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and been cited by professional organizations multiple times for my ethical reporting.
Ukraine has been the most expensive reporting trip I’ve taken thus far, but I think it will turn out to be the most fruitful. (I can’t say yet what I’ve been working on specifically, but it will be published in a major news outlet soon.)
Thank you, as always, for your support.
Photo: Bonding with a Ukrainian man over our beloved Labradors, both gone now. (Dima Chaika)