"The Fishing Industry's Cruelest Catch,"
E. Benjamin Skinner, February 20, 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek
A Necessary Beat—
<Photo: Reporting stories about girls like “Elizabeth” in Bloemfontein, South Africa, can mean that a journalist becomes involved in their lives in ways that can press up against journalism’s code of ethics. Photograph by Melanie Hamman. See more of her work>
Modern-Day Slavery: A Necessary Beat—With Different Challenges
Nieman Reports, Winter 2010
By E. Benjamin Skinner
In its code of ethics, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) lists as its first two principles: Journalists should “seek truth and report it” and “minimize harm” in the process. My beat is modern-day slavery, and for those who cover unfolding crimes against humanity, doing no harm does not mean doing nothing. I confess my bias: I am not for slavery. In fact, I hate it, and when victims have asked me for help to get free, and when there has been a way to aid their recovery responsibly, I have gotten involved.
Perhaps it’s simply the nature of this beat. Perhaps it’s me.
While on assignment for Time magazine to investigate sex trafficking in South Africa one freezing cold night in July 2009, I met two girls who desperately needed help. Several months earlier, a recruiter had lured the best friends out of their township, then sold them into sex slavery for $120 and a bag of crack cocaine. The buyer was a Nigerian pimp named Jude, who kept every penny the girls earned on the streets. Jude had kicked out the older one, Sindiswa, 17, a week before I met her, as she was too sick to work.
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