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#DigitalSkeptic: In Today's News Media, Freelancers Stand Alone

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- We Americans may have invented the "new" news business. But it will be independent news reporters from around the world that will reinvent it.

"Increasingly there is a global cadre of freelance writers and photographers covering the important stories around the world," Lily Hindy said to me in one of several phone calls on the rapidly changing dynamic of who really gathers the news these digital days.

Hindy, quite literally, has her fingers on the pulse of today's global news-gatherer. She's deputy director of Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues, or RISC, the Brooklyn, N.Y., emergency response training organization. Over the past two years, this tiny group with an annual budget of just $250,000, has trained more than 140 journalists, photographers and news gatherers in free multi-day workshops in first aid, emergency response training and risk management.

RISC lives on private donations from other freelance writers such as myself and gets major funding from the likes of ABC News, CNN, Vanity Fair and many others.

The group specifically serves freelance journalists working in conflicted, remote or otherwise dangerous areas. And while most sessions are here in the United States, increasingly the world is RISC's oyster. Classes will be held in Nairobi in October. And Hindy says demand is so brisk that RISC's training will come soon to other international capitals popular with global freelancers.

Now comes the bizarre part: RISC is not unique. In fact, there's a clear and quickening pace of freelance newsmaker support groups coalescing around the globe. These groups, like so many other grassroots insurgencies around the planet, use low-cost social media, cheap mobile devices and most importantly participants' willingness to share resources to change dramatically the relationship between media companies and freelance writers and photographers.

Take for example, London-based Frontline Freelance Register. It offers support and safety standards for writers working in dangerous areas. Or the Rory Peck Trust, also based in England, that offers help with digital security and the increasingly tricky problem of insuring equipment in remote locations. Or my personal favorite, Pay Me Please, a global wall of invoicing shame started by Yemen-based Iona Craig, where in-dispute bills are posted out in the public light of day.

"There is a growing solidarity among freelancers," Hindy said. "We did not set up RISC to be a networking thing. But that is what it has become."

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