Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti Reporting - Another Example Of Lazy Journalism

The tragedy that has befallen Haiti is hard to exaggerate. So far 75,000 people have been buried and Haitian say the death toll could reach as high as 200,000. This is potentially up there with the Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster in 2004 in terms of loss of life.

Like everyone, I've been moved by the picture I've seen on my television screen over the past few days. But, increasingly, I've been irritated by the tone of some of the reports.

One thing that never fails to rub me up the wrong way is lazy journalism. It is all around us and most of the time we can't spot it, because we don't know enough about the subject to see the errors or understand the lazy assumptions being made. But every now and then, you can spot the patterns and tell tale signs. And so it is with the "US is not helping Haiti effectively/quickly enough" reporting.

I think I first spotted this assertion being made on the day after the earthquake. Now, I'm not saying the relief effort is perfect. But, it seems to me that the response was quick. Aid, plus the means to deliver it, were promised and sent by many countries within hours of the scale of the even becoming clear. The US, quite rightly being the richest nation and with Haiti on its doorstep, has taken the lead. But still this evening on ITV's News at Ten, I hear the same "it's not good enough" message. We're told there's a camp two miles outside an airport where aid is flown in, where no aid has been received. The reporter, standing in the middle of the camp, is incredulous.

"How can it be that aid flown in there [points at the airport] hasn't found it's way here".

He collars a senior military figure and tells him of this situation. The reporter is then flabbergasted that the senior officer didn't know the camp hadn't received aid yet. The reporter doesn't seem to understand that aid isn't distributed based on distance from the airport it was flown into. While it is wrong that that particular camp was not receiving supplies, there was no evidence that the people there were in the greatest need. A child was playing football in the background as the reporter spoke, for instance. 

Let's be clear. This is a disaster on an enormous scale. The logistical challenges of getting aid to where it is needed most are enormous. When these natural disaster occur, the rest of the world is rightly expected to react. But any delay in being seen to act is met with the same old "they don't care" cries, so there is precious little time to plan before deploying troops and distributing aid.

Therefore, it is no wonder mistakes are made but, from what I can see, I am actually rather impressed with the multi-national forces' efforts in providing aid as well as search and rescue services in what is an incredibly difficult environment.

Yes, there needs to be a review after the initial aid efforts are over and lesson's learnt. And I suspect more could be done in terms of how the international community organises itself in order to respond more quickly and effectively to these events. But lets not unfairly disparage the efforts being made on the ground now, just for the sake of easy journalism.

No comments:

Post a Comment