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GRNlive and Zapaday partner to form news network of the future


LONDON – GRNlive, the Foreign Correspondents Network and Zapaday, the global news calendar, will partner to create a new global reporting service. The goal of the partnership is to make it easier for newsrooms to report on planned news events across the globe. GRNlive has matched its network of 900+ professional foreign correspondents with Zapaday’s database of future worldwide news events, enabling client newsrooms to immediately see which correspondents are available to cover upcoming news events and call on the local knowledge of those correspondents at the heart of the story. Starting on 19 December 2013, each future news event on Zapaday will be listed with GRNlive journalists available in the region to cover the story on the ground.

Our partnership is simple, yet has the capacity to transform the way newsrooms keep up with the demand to report timely stories from abroad, not to mention saving money and their carbon footprint by not putting teams on planes. Covering world news is enhanced by talking to correspondents on the ground with a deep understanding of the story”, says GRNlive founder and CEO Henry Peirse.

The global GRNlive network includes correspondents, photographers, video journalists, fixers and writers.

Stefan Hoevenaar, founder and CEO of Zapaday: “This partnership demonstrates that innovation is often the combination of existing strengths. News organisations are in a transition for survival and our goal is to support their transition by improving editorial planning while reducing costs. Our partnership with GRNlive adds great value to our news planning service”.

Zapaday established itself as a news calendar provider for press agencies and news publishers across Europe.

Click here to see correspondents immediately available for this event.

Click here to view the full press release.

Interview - Q&A with Henry Peirse

GRNlive and CBC re-sign newsgathering agreement

GRNlive and CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) have renewed and widened our agreement for a further 3 years - CBC-GRN 2011 Announcement.pdf

Some of GRNlive's Older Press Coverage

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Announcement from Associated Press - 24 November 2011

Henry Peirse speaking at news:rewired - 6th October 2011 - 3rd October 2010

How to become a roaming reporter  - Inspiring stories for aspiring foreign correspondents - advice on earning a living as a journalist abroad

Henry Peirse speaking at the 'news:rewired - connect journalism'  conference on Thursday 6th October 2011 at the MSN UK HQ in Victoria, London

Connecting Correspondents with Broadcasters

Global Radio News, an online agency for reporters, insists on fair treatment and insurance to protect those whose work takes them into harm’s way.

Fall 2010 Nieman Reports - click here

Direct link to this article - click here

What has to say about the piece - click here

By Henry Peirse

When I started freelancing the news business was changing, and that was even before the Internet was the cause. It was too early for that to happen. Back then it was the BBC that was slowly suffocating what had been one of the oldest, largest and most reliable sources of foreign news, World Service Radio, in its quest to move into television. In the early 1990’s I’d hear words such as “multiskilling,” as reporters started being trained in how to use video cameras.

In many ways, this was the beginning of the end. Or seen through the lens of today, it was the start of a journey that hasn’t ended.

In those days, news organizations had big budgets and paid good salaries to staff reporters, though they were starting to rely on freelancers like me to do much of the work. I’ll never forget the bureau chief of one of the big TV news agencies with his two suites in a luxury hotel, one for work and one for play, all on an expense account. He had a blast and still delivered.

I was covering the war in the former Yugoslavia. It was a mad time. I was 22, with no real grasp of the risks. There was no hostile environment training and no insurance. Journalism was a trade; we learned it as we worked. Passion for the story drove us, and money was a welcome byproduct. My editors cared only that I was on the scene with a phone connection and could file. It was hard work; when a story broke, I’d call all my clients, half a dozen regulars, to persuade them the story was worth running. I’d file, and if I was lucky I’d send the same piece again with a different sign-off to each of my clients. Then I’d wait and hope they would pay.

On quiet days I wasted money on phone calls as I’d try to persuade an accounts person that I really did the work and deserved my payment. It wasn’t easy since I couldn’t get angry and risk being labeled as a problem correspondent and see my client list shrink.

After I spent seven years on that story, I decided it was time to come home. My editors were happy to meet for a drink, but work was hard to come by. Budgets were already under the knife.

It was then that I was struck with moment of genius, or so I thought. In Bosnia, I learned how the Web was being used for instant communications when I saw students keeping in touch via e-mail across the frontlines during the war. So I figured that freelancers could use the Web to pitch and sell stories with somebody in the middle to chase payments for them. Back in London, I did the dot-com thing, and like so many others I pretended that I understood the business and I raised some money. But I blew it on the wrong things, and soon the bubble popped.

Whether it was vanity or blind stupidity or the tenacity I acquired in Bosnia, something kept me going. I could see that budgets were shrinking at news organizations, but I also knew that the appetite for well-sourced, reliable foreign news reporting wasn’t. And so I set out to create Global Radio News (GRN) and for 10 years the business has played the critical middleman role in connecting broadcasters with proven reporters. We’ve faced some competition, and we’ve adapted to the changing marketplace by using technology to streamline our services.

Designing a New Newsdesk

Now GRN has embarked on an initiative to fill the vacuum left by the hollowing out of newsrooms. Not too long ago those at the newsdesk knew where every reporter was at any time, whether on the frontlines of a battle or on a stool at a bar. And they knew what story a reporter was covering and how. They were usually the ones to give reporters their next assignment. Now this function falls to desk editors, one job among many.

This is where GRN steps in. We do what newsdesks used to do and more. We suggest stories, using ideas we pick up from daily messages sent to us by reporters working in all parts of the world. Widespread reporting about the famine and brutality in Darfur started with an alert we received from one of our reporters who’d been there. In some cases, we even help to direct coverage.

GRN tries as much as possible to use journalists who live where the story is taking place. Local journalists have the gift of institutional knowledge and this can set them apart from those who parachute into a story, though the old-timers can also be ready to leap in given the expertise they carry inside of them. When they were foreign correspondents, they settled in a region of the world and got to know their way around; they were ready when news broke. In this tweeting generation of journalists, deep digging isn’t valued so this kind of ingrained knowledge doesn’t grow. Of course this is understandable at a time when it’s the rare news organization that invests in having a reporter watch a story until it becomes news.

GRN’s role is to support reporters by finding them and investing in them before a story breaks in their backyard. When it does, we connect broadcasters with a person who is ready to do the job.

Connecting Reporters and Broadcasters

During the uprising in Kyrgyzstan this spring, we watched the story develop for a few weeks. Then one morning Tim Judah, a reporter we’ve worked with for many years, called us to say that his son Ben was in the capital, Bishkek, and he’d written about the troubles in that country. We immediately pushed Ben’s name and whereabouts out via the daily alerts we send to our clients. We then set about organizing his insurance, knowing that bookings would start to come in soon. And they did.

Broadcasters watch our alerts as they are deciding whether they want to cover a story and if so, how. Are they willing to spend the money to send a staff reporter? Or will they take a chance on a reporter like Ben who is there, knows the story, and can start to file immediately. A number of our clients—CBC, CBS, France 24, Fox News, Deutsche Welle, and RTE, among others—chose to use him so for several days he was a busy man. And as he handled his reporting assignments, GRN took care of the sales and marketing of his work, billed the broadcasters, and paid him.

As protests escalated on the streets of Tehran last summer, Saeed Kamali Dehghan picked up reporting assignments after other broadcasters had been forced to leave or had their movements severely restricted by the authorities. Given his local knowledge, Dehghan, who was writing for The Guardian, started to be used extensively by other news organizations, including broadcasters. Writing recently in The Observer of this experience, he recalled how his assignments increased:
One day, I was on the back of a motorbike. A friend was helping me to get from one place to another in Tehran and my agents, GRN in London, called and said: ‘Saeed, in five minutes you have to go live on CNN.’ With no broadcast experience, I was suddenly live on TV for the first time on the back of a motorbike in the middle of a city in chaos. They loved it and I gave more than 50 live TV interviews to different broadcasters in June alone, most of the time appearing anonymously.
Insisting on Fairness

Our business works by providing a service for broadcasters and reporters. Given the danger inherent in foreign news reporting—especially in conflict zones—we use our agent role and leverage to insist on a solid level of protection for reporters. Our approach comes out of our belief that no broadcaster should run a story, picture or video done by a reporter who is not insured. To accomplish this, we’ve established a program whereby all of the reporters who work through GRN carry insurance when they do a story that has been assigned to them through us.

If a broadcaster wants reliable, high-quality reporters, it must be willing to treat them fairly and do all they can to keep them safe. And what they pay has to be commensurate with the use they want to make of the reporting they receive; put simply, they can’t own the rights forever if they pay little to produce it.

Seeing that these obligations are met doesn’t happen easily, but GRN has fought similar battles before. When we were starting out we insisted that broadcasters pay for even a brief phoner with a reporter; making that standard procedure required a fight. The broadcasters presumed that reporters would be satisfied just to be asked to talk on their news program, and that would be enough. It isn’t.

To take these next steps, we created a package designed to support the work that our foreign news reporters do. We call it “GRN Assignment Insurance.” Through this program, we assist reporters in securing the insurance they need by helping to cover its cost with a guarantee of work. We also help in arranging their visas and press cards. We book work and facilitate payment within 30 days. We also advance funds on confirmed stories and help reporters get discounts on the tools and services they’ll need in the field.

The cost to the reporter is our commission, their loyalty, and a small fee paid to belong to GRN. As agents, we earn money through commissions that vary. Broadcasters pay rates that are determined by their size and location, but reporters earn the same percentage of the fee whether the broadcast outlet is enormous or tiny. Our same rigorous professional standards always apply.

We know that a reporter working on his or her own would earn more for each job, but with us they benefit from our economies of scale and the practices that we insist be in place for them. In 10 years, we’ve only had a handful of reporters leave GRN and head out on their own. Ours is a model of organizing and running the business of foreign reporting that fits its time while also holding on to the journalistic values that guided reporters in the past.

Henry Peirse is the founder and CEO of Global Radio News (GRN).

Courvoisier Revolutionary Spirit - July 2010

The Press Gazette

My week: the best of Press Gazette's diaries in 2007 - click here

The Guardian

Pictures in words

Henry Peirse's big idea was to bring together freelance radio reporters worldwide and broadcasters via an online link. The current Iraqi conflict has proved the turning point, he tells Owen Gibson

Owen Gibson
Monday April 14, 2003

One feature of the media coverage of the Iraqi conflict is that it has often been radio reporters on the ground who have best been able to see through the fog of war. Without the constant pictorial demands of 24-hour TV news, radio journalists have perhaps been better able to frame the unfolding story and provide context and background.

Important, too, is the fact that far more of them are operating independently, un-embedded and as freelancers, phoning in their reports to different stations. But when you are in the field and bullets are flying, the last thing you want to be worrying about is what time your next report is due and whether you will get paid.

The same thought occurred to Henry Peirse, who was a freelance radio reporter in the former Yugoslavia, and it led him to set up Global Radio News. His plan was relatively simple - to provide a worldwide repository of freelance radio correspondents and act as a go-between for them and the broadcasters. "Having been a freelancer myself, I realised there was this resource of freelancers who worked very hard and didn't have the resources that staff reporters got. If these guys are taking a lot of risks, they should be properly rewarded," says Peirse.

But when GRN was first launched, in May 2000, it was, he admits, a struggle. The original concept was to provide an online link between freelance radio reporters and broadcasters. Those in the field would file their reports via the internet, where they could be called up by news editors to broadcast immediately. But, says Peirse, "It has been very difficult to persuade broadcasters to buy audio on the web. The journalists jumped on it, but the stations have been slow to pick it up." Rather than throw in the towel, GRN changed tack late last year. While still using the web as an essential resource and database, it now relies on mobile satellite phones. "A lot of editors and producers are still not using the web - they prefer to have a human interface," he says.

So now, GRN acts more as an independent news hub, talking to its affiliated correspondents around the world and putting them in touch with radio stations looking for a specific angle or update. It also ensures news flows the other way, preparing an email three times a day featuring the latest news updates and suggesting reporters on the ground who can cover the events listed. "It lands on the news editor's desk, they can see who is there and they can pick up the phone. We're starting to see it influence the news agenda for the broadcasters we work with," says Peirse.

The Iraqi war has happened just in time for GRN. Just as CNN was on the brink of collapse before the first Gulf war came to its rescue, so on a far smaller scale this conflict has proved the business case for Peirse's start-up. "This has catapulted us on to a new level," he says. "For example, we'd been trying to get through to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for months and now they're talking to us on an hourly basis. A lot of people who thought it would be a good idea but couldn't see how it would fit have really got it."

Now, heavyweights including CBS, CNN and Sky are on board, but the idea has had even more impact for small to medium-sized broadcasters which can't afford their own staff reporters in the Middle East. For the likes of LBC and TalkSport, which have both made use of the service during the current crisis, and dozens of smaller local stations, having ready access to on-the-spot reports gives them a fair shot at competing with the huge resources of ITN and the BBC.

Phil Longman, who has been in charge of the war coverage on London station LBC 97.3, said that using GRN had enabled it to widen the pool of correspondents it uses, adding context. "It's an interesting idea that has worked extremely well. The key person we've been using is Tim Judah, but we've also used journalists from the Financial Times, Newsweek and the New York Times, who are also reporting for GRN," he says. "Our main news tie-up is with Sky, but obviously its people have been very busy, and using GRN has enabled us to add texture by reporting from around the region."

GRN now has 500 freelancers on its books across 98 countries, including scores in and around the Middle East. They are being coordinated by the two other members of the company's three-strong team, who at the moment are working around the clock to keep on top of rapidly unfolding events. They are Ben Cohen, who was a colleague of Peirse in former Yugoslavia and has considerable experience working as a freelancer in the Middle East, and Kit Peel, another former journalist, who reported extensively from South Africa.

Cohen believes that the practical reporting background of the three core members of the team gives them an insight into both sides of the news-gathering process. "By virtue of all the people we know and have met, it gives us a real insight. That combination of special knowledge and context gives us an edge on coverage," he says. Since September 11 2001, there has been a growing willingness among news organisations of all sizes to feature international news because it now has a direct bearing on their listeners, Cohen believes.

"There is a renewed interest in international news and attention may well turn next to Syria, Iran and North Korea, and we're already working on setting these things up. We've got people all over the region," adds Peirse. And while he inevitably expects the quantity of stories per day to tail off as the war comes to an end, he also thinks that the sands of the news agenda have shifted fundamentally towards international affairs during the conflict and the wider war on terrorism.

Now that the service is on its way to becoming more firmly establishing as a daily tool in newsrooms, Peirse says that GRN may come full circle and reintroduce the web-based audio element. "It was the right idea at the wrong time and it is definitely a very good way to aggregate reports," he says, but adds that it will wait until news editors and producers are ready for it rather than foisting it on them.

In the meantime, he hopes GRN will continue to prosper after this war ends and stand testament to the power of combining old and new media to execute a simple idea well. Which, as the experience of dozens of companies over the past five years will tell you, is a whole lot more difficult than it sounds.

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