It is useful to remember that the term “freelancer” was first used for mercenaries who lent their martial skills and services to the highest bidder in time of war. In the current environment, the following scenario is certainly plausible: a freelance journalist, strapped for cash and with no institutional affiliations or loyalty, embeds herself with a unit of freelance warriors from the Blackwater army. Together, they ride into a war zone, all freelancers, with indeterminate missions and no one to vet whatever “journalism” gets committed. Things have never looked quite so eerily uncertain.


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Shahan Mufti teaches journalism at the University of Richmond. He is the author of The Faithful Scribe: A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family, and War.