These Grey Areas: Freelancers and the blurring of INGOs and news organisations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


International non-governmental organizations (INGOs) are known to employ freelancers to produce multimedia and to pitch it for them to mainstream news outlets. So it seems odd that research about the blurring of news organizations and INGOs has been largely focused upon the practices of full-time staff at these kinds of organizations. To help fill this lacuna, this article constructs a model capable of interrogating the multiple forms of structure and agency at the heart of such forms of freelancing by blending Critical Realist theory with work by Bourdieu. It then uses this model to analyse semi-structured interviews with six freelancers who were involved in the production of media items about sub-Saharan countries. All of them were found to erode the distinction between INGOs and news organizations through different kinds of commissioning and syndication practices. But this article's main critical contribution lies in its efforts to illuminate why freelancers chose to engage in such liminal work; for the legitimating rationales they employed enabled them to avoid the “inter-role conflicts” experienced by freelancers who work for news outlets and commercial public relations organizations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)989-1009
Number of pages20
Journal Journalism Studies
Issue number8
Early online date13 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • freelancers
  • norms
  • political economy
  • INGO
  • journalism
  • news
  • Human rights
  • war crimes
  • campaigning
  • advocacy


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