A fixer is someone who offers assistance to foreign journalists who are trying to get a story. Fixers use their local experience and contacts to smooth the way for their employers, and many receive a high rate of pay, especially when compared to locally available wages. For traveling journalists, fixers are crucial, because without a fixer, it can be very difficult to get a story or to connect with the people of a country.
The services offered by a fixer are quite diverse. At a minimum, a fixer arranges transportation, accommodations, and meals, and uses local connections to track people down. Fixers also translate, or find translators who speak obscure dialects, and they work to arrange interviews and visits to various sites for their employers. If a fixer is not available, a journalist may struggle to get the information he or she needs, and journalists may be put in danger as a result of not having a cultural guide available.
Working as a fixer can be quite dangerous. Fixers are sometimes perceived as workers for the enemy due to their cooperation with journalists, and this can make them subject to reprisals in their communities. As many journalists recognize, once they get their stories, they can leave, but fixers stay behind. In some regions of the world, cases of kidnappings, murder, and extortion of fixers have been documented, and in some cases, kidnapped fixers have been used as a tool to force news crews to leave a country.
Some attempts have been made to protect fixers, as journalists recognize the importance of good fixers and want to be able to work with them again. Journalists tend to exchange information with each other about which fixers are the best ones to work with, and there is a growing trend towards respecting the opinion and input of fixers much more. For example, when a fixer says that a location is too unsafe to visit, a journalist may seek another way to get the story, in contrast with the past, when journalists would have insisted upon making the trip anyway.
In some cases, fixers have even gone on to become journalists themselves, after being inspired by their employers. During the Iraq War, many fixers became journalists by accident, as journalists found themselves unable to move around the country freely. While they cooled their heels in hotel rooms and lodges, their fixers took photographs, made interviews, and engaged in other acts of reporting, bringing the material back to their employers to be written up and published.