Lindsay Palmer is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UW-Madison. She studies global media ethics from a qualitative perspective, especially focusing on the cultural labor of conflict correspondents in the digital age. Though Palmer looks at numerous ethical questions inspired by conflict reporting in the 21st century—questions of translation, representation, and political domination, just to name a few—she is particularly interested in the economic and political structures that inform news organizations’ policies on their correspondents’ safety in the field.
The risky labor that correspondents conduct in the conflict zone can profoundly impact their interaction with (and representations of) “other” places. For example, the increased competitiveness of war reporters at a time when news organizations are outsourcing their coverage to underpaid freelancers and unpaid citizen journalists can sometimes result in the construction of sensationalist and simplistic news narratives. On top of that, news organizations sometimes capitalize upon their correspondents’ incidents in the field, transforming these instances of systemic failure into stories that distract from important political and industrial questions. Following this, Palmer studies the slippage between the conflict reporter as a laboring social subject and the conflict reporter as cultural sign. She is currently working on a book that explores this complicated topic, entitled Surviving the Story: the Precarious Labor of Conflict Correspondence after 9/11 (University of Illinois Press, 2017).
Palmer is also interested in the local news employees who assist the foreign reporters visiting their nations. The translators, stringers, and “fixers” who guide the foreign press through cities like Beirut or Kiev are crucial to the practice of war reporting; yet, far too often, the journalists who depend upon “fixers” the most end up disavowing or erasing their contributions. Because of this, Palmer is planning another book that focuses solely on the cultural labor of local stringers and “fixers, examining their crucial participation in informing transnational publics about conflict in the present moment.
Before becoming an academic, Palmer worked as a television news writer and producer. Starting as an intern in Miami and then Nashville, Palmer grew to love the excitement of visual news reporting. She later produced her own morning show in Colorado Springs, before moving to San Diego where she worked as a producer at one of the only English-language television stations in the US to be owned by the Mexican media company, Grupo Televisa.
Palmer eventually left the news industry and got a Ph.D. in film and media studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her scholarly work has appeared in the peer-reviewed journals Genders, Feminist Review, Television and New Media, Continuum: a Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, and Critical Studies in Media Communication, as well as in various edited collections.