The Global Reporting Centre has concluded the largest survey ever conducted on the use of “fixers,” with more than 450 responses from reporters, fixers and editors around the world. The goal of the Fixing Fixers project is to map current practices in foreign correspondence and find solutions to some of its challenges.

The use of fixers – local reporters, interpreters and logistics coordinators – is common practice in traditional “parachute reporting.” Fixers do everything from serving as translator, arranging for drivers, and sometimes pulling strings to give journalists access to places that are hard to access. Fixers have reported feeling exploited, and correspondents have reported being deceived by fixers. There are security and trust issues that rarely get addressed, and this survey aims to bring those discussions out into the open.

Researchers working with the GRC developed an online survey, which was distributed to hundreds of people worldwide. The survey determined demographics (age, gender, languages, familial status, years within formal journalism, salary), as well as questions specifically geared towards defining “fixer” and “journalist.” The survey questions also laid a groundwork in determining what issues were facing foreign correspondents and fixers in the changing media landscape.

At the end of the survey, respondents were asked if they were willing to participate in follow-up one-on-one interviews. Nearly 50 agreed and interviews are now underway to gain insights from diverse perspectives. The GRC is also collecting recommendations from fixers and journalists for improving personal, institutional and systemic dynamics.

Project leads Dr. Shayna Plaut and Peter Klein have both served as fixers for foreign correspondents and utilized fixers as reporters themselves. Also working on the project are Olivier Musafiri, Peter Mothe and Ashley Nicholson.

The GRC aims to continue the conversation on fixers by publishing its findings in both trade and academic journals, and presenting findings at journalism conferences in 2017. Fixing Fixers was funded by the Canadian Media Research Consortium.