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By Bill Gentile

WASHINGTON, DC, 26 June 2018 – Mrs. Diane Foley addresses guests at the James W. Foley Freedom Awards at the Newseum in the nation’s capital. The event was an extraordinary testament to the power of one mother’s love for her son, a freelance photojournalist.

Mrs. Foley was kind enough to invite me, and a number of American University students, to the event. All of us were moved by the proceedings.

James Foley was a freelance photojournalist kidnapped on November 22, 2012 in northern Syria. He was murdered by militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on August 19, 2014 in the Raqqa region of Syria.

As a freelance foreign correspondent and full-time faculty member of American University’s School of Communication, I am familiar with the hardship and risk associated with our craft. I created and teach a Foreign Correspondence course designed to help young journalists aspiring to work overseas. The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation provides much-appreciated support for us all.

The awards ceremony was pertinent to my current project. I recently completed the pilot episode of my documentary series, “FREELANCERS with Bill Gentile.” The global series explores how a new generation of daring, determined and tech-savvy journalists increasingly fill the void left by mainstream media outlets retreating from news coverage abroad, and how their search for truth on the ground is transforming the craft of foreign correspondence. Here’s the brief “sizzle reel,” or trailer: https://vimeo.com/275931310

At the dinner, I ran into long-time colleague and friend Mike Boettcher, a war correspondent whom I first met while covering Nicaragua’s Contra War in the 1980s. Mike has embedded with U.S. troops numerous times in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a visiting professor at the University of Oklahoma.

Mike practices the methodology that we refer to as “backpack journalism,” which I introduced to the School of Communication shortly after arriving there in 2003.

Also at the event was my terrific colleague Gemma Puglisi, who facilitated the invitation from Mrs. Foley.

(Photos by Bill Gentile)

 

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By Bill Gentile

WASHINGTON, DC, 2 June 2018 – Jon Sawyer, Founder and Executive Director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, addresses dinner guests at the Center’s “Beyond War Conference” at the National Press Club in the nation’s capital.

During his address, Sawyer emphasized the increasingly important role that freelance journalists play in today’s media landscape.

The Pulitzer event features two days of panels and workshops dealing with the issues of violence and conflict around the world – along with some of the most talented and accomplished journalists covering those issues. Most are freelancers. Among the panelists was Jason Motlagh, a multiple Pulitzer Center grantee who screened some clips from his upcoming documentary about the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.

Just a few years ago I helped engineer a partnership between American University’s (AU) School of Communication and the Pulitzer Center. That relationship has helped co-sponsor international reporting fellowships for AU students traveling to Mexico, Thailand, Colombia, Borneo, Laos, Peru and, this fall, El Salvador. Some of those students attended the event last night.

The argument about freelancers is the core of my upcoming documentary series, FREELANCERS with Bill Gentile. My graduate teaching assistant, Matt Cipollone, and I traveled to Mexico in March 2017 to shoot the pilot episode. Matt has graduated from AU and now works as a freelancer.

Jason Motlagh is on the far right, with beard.

Guests view Motlagh’s Rohingya video.

Matt Cipollone documents the event.

(Photos by Bill Gentile)

By Bill Gentile

WASHINGTON, DC, 1 May 2018 — The killing of 10 journalists in Afghanistan yesterday was an attack not only on the brothers and the sisters of our craft. It was an assault on Truth itself.

Some 25 people, including nine journalists, died in a double suicide bombing in the Afghan capital of Kabul. In a separate incident, unidentified gunmen shot to death a tenth Afghan journalist in Khost Province. Members of ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Yesterday’s victims, and scores of other colleagues killed and wounded around the world, are some of the most valuable — and the most vulnerable — members of our guild. They are Afghans in Afghanistan. Mexicans in Mexico. Salvadorans in El Salvador. Most are local hires whom Western journalists like me depend on for background, context and contacts to help us decipher their countries and their cultures so that we can do our job.

They toil at the grass roots level of information gathering. They are driven by a profound sense of duty to find and to disseminate Truth about their own countries. And like most Westerners, they believe that Truth is an essential ingredient for any free and democratic society.

But they also are the most vulnerable members of our craft. Mexico, for example, is one of the world’s most dangerous countries to be a journalist. At least 104 journalists have been murdered there since 2000, while 25 others have disappeared and are presumed dead. None of the dead or disappeared are foreigners. All are Mexican. Impunity is nearly 100 percent.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, some 1,900 journalists and media workers were killed around the world between 1992 and 2018. The killings, threats and intimidation of journalists have profound and long-lasting impact. As I learned during a trip to Mexico last year to produce the pilot of a documentary series about freelance foreign correspondents, many Mexican journalists impose self-censorship as a safety precaution. Some media outlets have simply shut down.

As a result, our access to Truth is diminished. Our understanding of the world grows dark.

Yesterday’s attack on journalists was a tremendous loss not just for Afghanistan. It was a tremendous loss for us all.

– Bill Gentile
School of Communication, American University
Founder, Foreign Correspondence Network (FCN)
Creator, FREELANCERS with Bill Gentile documentary series. See the sizzle reel HERE: https://vimeo.com/254574654

By Bill Gentile

WASHINGTON, DC, 20 April 2018 — Dean Jeffrey Rutenbeck takes time outside the School of Communication to congratulate graduate student Kristian Hernandez for having won the 2018 AU-Pulitzer Center International Reporting Fellowship.

It is Rutenbeck’s generous support that funds AU’s continuing partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Kristian’s winning proposal for the fellowship explores what is being done by the U.S. and Central American governments to repatriate the remains of hundreds of migrants who die each year in pursuit of the American Dream.

In El Salvador and Guatemala, he will visit the grave sites containing the remains of two migrants he helped recover for a story as an immigration reporter with The Monitor newspaper in McAllen, Texas.

During interviews at human rights groups, consulates and with forensic anthropologists, he will determine how bureaucracy perpetuates the long, dark night suffered by thousands of families unable to find closure and peace over their missing family members.

This story will be part one of a three-part series that starts in Central America and continues in Mexico and ends in Texas. As part of this project he will write a 2,500 word story with photographs, and on-camera interviews.

(Photos by Bill Gentile)

By Bill Gentile

WASHINGTON, DC, 19 April 2018 — American University has launched a chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the leading organization of its kind in the United States.

The organization’s mission:

“The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) is dedicated to the recognition and professional advancement of Hispanics in the news industry. Established in April 1984, NAHJ created a national voice and unified vision for all Hispanic journalists.

NAHJ is governed by an 18-member board of directors that consists of executive officers and regional directors who represent geographic areas of the United States and the Caribbean. The national office is located in Washington, D.C.

NAHJ has approximately 2,000 members, including working journalists, journalism students, other media-related professionals and journalism educators.”

The launch of this chapter is part of American University’s continued efforts to establish our institution as a leader in diversity and inclusion across the United States.

Students do not have to be Hispanic to join the NAHJ. Nor do they have to be journalists or journalism majors. Staff may join as students.

I am serving as faculty advisor, and will announce planning sessions and official launch event as soon as possible.

Bill Gentile

WASHINGTON, DC, 1 March 2017 – I delivered a few remarks at the inauguration of the photo exhibit, “Self Portrait of a Nation,” (Ojos Propios) at the Peruvian embassy in the nation’s capital. Standing to my left is Peruvian Ambassador to the United States, Carlos Pareja.

The exhibit focuses on images made by “citizen photojournalists” in some of the most remote and underprivileged corners of Peru. The exhibit is the result of a decade-long effort by photographer Andrés Longhi.

My two most important takeaways from the event are: (1) Technology has enabled non-professionals with access to digital cameras and the Internet to take part in the representation of their own communities, their own countries and their own realities. (2) The ability to take part in the global conversation that we call “journalism” validates and empowers the practitioners and their subjects.

(Still photos by Esther Gentile)

You can see the event here: https://www.facebook.com/EmbassyPeruInTheUSA/videos/1946719012056744/

WASHINGTON, DC, 14 January 2018 — I’m delighted to update friends, colleagues and supporters that FREELANCERS with Bill Gentile soon will be moving to the distribution phase.

We’ve scheduled a screening this week at American University, a generous supporter of this project. The event will be held at the class of Matt Cipollone, whose editing of the documentary serves as his graduate degree thesis project. Matt graduates with a Masters Degree this May.

Following the screening, my plan is to deliver the film to the artist who will provide the sound/music foundation of the documentary, and who will mix the sound and music into the final cut. Then we take it to potential distributors. It’s been a long journey, filled with intense, hard work, much learning and a tremendous amount of fun with friends, new and old.

If you haven’t done so already, you may want to watch the FREELANCERS “sizzle reel,” which Matt also edited. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zr5ZwWrUD5E&t=8s

— Bill Gentile