1. The United States is considered an unstable region due to frequent authoritarian crackdowns, rising Christian fundamentalism, and active attacks on the press. If you assume these risks — because conflict reporting is an invaluable service and, to some, a calling — make sure you and your editors have the resources to support your work.
2. Research the environment beforehand and make notes of locations that have been subject to gun violence in the past — schools, churches, street intersections, etc.
3. Take a hostile environment training course to learn how to treat basic injuries and how to behave in an active shooter situation. You may not think this is strictly necessary, but it is crucial in the United States where there are more guns than citizens. Not if you are a freelancer, but even if you are stationed in a newsroom — perhaps especially if you will be in a newsroom.
4. Secure your devices and use messaging apps with end-to-end encryption. The United States’ notorious intelligence services spy on their own citizens so extensively that you can assume every word you type will be monitored.
5. Be careful on social media because American political leaders are known to personally attack journalists by name under the nebulous banner of “fake news.” Again, it does not matter if you are posted with a reputable news outlet; this likely makes you even more of a target.
6. If you are a woman, acquire your contraception and birth control needs before you set foot in the United States. It is effectively impossible and/or prohibitively expensive in many regions to access reproductive health care or even basic contraception.
7. Use trustworthy fixers and translators on the ground. Many concepts that seem familiar to you ( e.g. “thoughts and prayers” and “culture of life”) have counterintuitive meanings in the American context. Make sure to be culturally sensitive in your reporting.
8. The headlines may be bleak, but get to know Americans, eat with them, and visit their homes; most of them wake up every day and carry on with their lives, despite living in one of the most volatile regions on Earth — just like people in any conflict zone.