Laying off full-time journalists in favor of relying on freelancers and syndicated content providers has become an increasingly common strategy for media companies seeking to maintain their profits.
Nearly 16,000 layoffs and buyouts at newspapers occurred in 2008, for instance, according to the “Paper Cuts” blog, which tracks job losses at newspapers, and nearly 3,800 were let go or bought out in 2011.
Many of these laid-off reporters—accustomed to being covered for libel, slander and other standard claims by media-insurance policies at their large organizations—became freelancers and lost the protection of those policies.
While some carriers will issue media policies directly to individuals, the cost can be prohibitive. So most savvy journalists-for-hire will try to make sure they are covered by the company paying for their services—which also has the deeper pockets and is more likely to be targeted in a lawsuit that arises from a third-party provider’s work being called into question.
Media companies that use freelancers will want to double-check to make sure any coverage warranties they extend to their contributors are indeed supported by the language of their policies.
In addition to those journalists who struck out on their own, others have formed smaller reporting collectives—and are looking to license their articles to larger players.
The Investigative News Network (INN) is an advocacy group, many of whose nonprofit members have formed their newsgathering operations only recently. Its 60 member organizations tend to be small, observes CEO/Executive Director Kevin Davis. While some members already had media insurance before joining, many others did not.
During the past year, as a benefit for its members, INN approached its broker to find an insurance source that would be willing to give discounted rates. It found ThinkRisk, a managing general underwriting agency specializing in Errors & Omissions insurance in media, advertising technology and network security.
INN also reworked its membership agreement to address indemnification as it relates to members who wish to distribute and syndicate their content with wire services such as Thomson Reuters.