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Killing of journalist in Syria highlights work of freelancers covering the conflict

Journalists James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Theo Curtis all shared one thing in common when they were captured by Islamic militants in Syria, the title "freelance journalist."

The role of freelancers, who make a living by selling individual stories, photos and video to multiple outlets, has expanded across conflict zones in recent years with the spread of technology and social media. Some are cautious and well-trained; Others take major risks. And they often lack the institutional support staff journalists receive if they get into trouble in a conflict zone.

Joel Simon is the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. He says that while freelance journalists make important contributions, those who go into danger without a contract and the support of an established organization can face immense challenges.

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