Surviving as an Eastern European freelancer

The tale of a Bulgarian journalist trying to find stable employment in the US and Brussels and failing -- in part because she holds the wrong passport -- speaks volumes about how hard some find it to survive on this difficult labor market. 

Claudia Ciobanu
Claudia Ciobanu NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Surviving as an Eastern European freelancer - NewsMavens
Woman journalist, PixaBay

Why this story matters:

Last week, I recommended a story about Polish freelance journalists unionizing and demanding fairer treatment for editors. This week, I draw attention to the account of a Bulgarian journalist who ended up freelancing for Iranian Press TV from Brussels because, despite having a journalism degree from Columbia University and being inarguably competent, there were simply no other opportunities for her and she still needed to eat.

Stable journalism jobs are extremely scarce nowadays and candidates with the right passports are more likely to get them.

The rest have to make do -- and sometimes it involves ethical compromises. The sorry state of this particular labor market is very concerning, because journalists carry enormous responsibility. This is particularly true in a day and age when their credibility is questioned by some of the world's most powerful politicians.

Details from the story:

  • Yaldaz Sadakova spent a year of her life freelancing from Brussels for Iranian Press TV. She ended up with the Iranian channel because she needed work.
  • She didn't find employment in the US (where she graduated from Columbia, which has one of the most well reputed journalism programmes in the world) because she didn't have a work permit.
  • She didn't get a well-paying job in her native Bulgaria because they don't really exist.
  • She didn't get a job with a mainstream media in Brussels because there's an oversupply of hungry journalists who happen to have the right passports, says Sadakova, are more likely to get them. 
  • Press TV paid the bills but made her nervous all the time because the channel does propaganda for the Iranian regime and Sadakova felt bad to be associated with it even if she didn't experience censorship in her own work, which did not involve covering highly sensitive topics anyway. 
  • Sadakova's story is published on her website, Foreignish, which is dedicated to telling stories of migrants -- describing the subtle millions of ways in which migrants have it harder, and trying to see how this can be turned into a strength. 
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