I am putting Gordon Harcourt’s long reply to the ongoing discussion of parachute journalism up as a new post. It deserves a place on the front page, not buried in the comments queue.
If anyone else wishes to weigh in with a guest post, feel free.
Riposte to riposte to riposte – and pull your head in Tim Selwyn
[guest post by Gordon Harcourt]
I’m glad I’m contributing to a conversation, though I have taken exception to the distasteful view of one of the participants – see below, Tim Selwyn.
Frankly, I don’t particularly care about that sort of opinion, as I’m never going to change it. I’ve entered into this conversation because it’s extremely important to me that Martin’s students get another angle.
Let me begin by saying that I’ve apologized to Martin in case my posting was seen as playing the man not the ball. That wasn’t my intent. And I’ve accepted that it’s a little harsh – though I don’t for a moment resile from the sentiments. My only regret is that if you start at full volume, you’ve got nowhere else to go. [EM, apology not necessary, debates need to be robust and friendly]
Martin, you’ve spent a great deal of time quoting various learned sources about the “parachute journalism” (PJ) phenomenon in your reply to my post. I’m very aware of the debate, and I agree the best informed journalist should always be used. If possible, you should use your guy on the ground. BUT WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN HE OR SHE DOESN’T EXIST????
Given that our mythical surviving English-speaking Haitian based journalist clearly was mythical, then the options are to send or just pull stuff off the bird. TV3 decided to send. If they hadn’t, then the material they would have used would also have been PJ material. So what do you do? Just not cover the story?
Martin, you pose a set of questions:
- We see buy-in material all the time on TV news, particularly from the USA and the UK. We have no trouble using locals on those stories, why is Haiti different?
TV3 and TVNZ did use that material. Every night that I saw TV3 coverage, there were at least three or four other “buy-in” stories.
- If TVNZ and TV3 actually kept bureaus in places like the Carribean, rather than just London, New York and Washington DC, then the argument for sending someone would be stronger.
Come on Martin. You teach journalism. You were a journalist. It’s a real world business. Even the biggest journalism outfits in the world don’t have bureaux everywhere. At the margin, you have to send people. So where do you draw your line? When does a report become hopelessly compromised in your mind, because the journalist who prepared it hasn’t been on the ground for three years, or whatever?
- Why do we need a ‘Kiwi’ perspective on disasters like Haiti anyway? Surely we’re global enough to know that it’s going to be horrible and that people are dying etc. We can interpret that for ourselves.
Did Mike McRoberts have a “kiwi angle” in ANY of his stories?
- But, we can’t fill in the blanks in our knowledge of Haiti all that easily and without it, we end up with a bunch of racist stereotypes and not much else.
There are many arguments to be had about the coverage of Haiti. My objection was to your apparent quest for a reason not to cover a story.
And I’ve enjoyed the other responses to my piece. I’ve long since accepted that I have abdicated my right to be taken seriously by a portion of society, because I work in television. However, I never fail to be astonished by the flat out silliness of some views on my loathsome trade.
Attention Steve Cowan (Steve commented on Gordon’s first post)
Steve Cowan’s response is a masterpiece of naivety. Sorry Steve, but reporting news is about reporting news. Much as you might wish to get a lecture from Robert Fisk about the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict as part of every single news story [and] every broadcast, it ain’t gonna happen and frankly that’s not a bad thing in my book. It’s incumbent on broadcasters to give a full and balanced picture – cue outraged spluttering from Steve about “balance” – but it’s completely ludicrous to suggest, as you appear to, that a full account of any history to any conflict can be carried in a news broadcast or newspaper, or even a weekly news magazine. Fisk’s latest tome is 1366 pages. How many of them should I read out on air when I next introduce a story from Jerusalem on the TVNZ7 news at 8pm? Which facts (“facts” – there’s an elastic notion) should I include in my potted history primer?
By the way Steve, I saw a great deal of context and history on Haiti in various media during the coverage of the quake aftermath. In fact, I led a 15 minute discussion of it on Radio NZ, while filling in for Kathryn Ryan. News coverage provokes wider discussion of context. That’s how it works, Steve.
And Steve, obviously the evil US military were solely intent on furthering the ends of the industrial-military complex but, um, maybe they had to go in to deliver aid? Gee, it’s just a thought.
Attention Tim Selwyn (Tim commented on Gordon’s first post)
Tim, go back and read my comments on why news organisations send people to news stories. I can’t comment but yes, I’m guessing marketing advantage was part of TV3’s calculus. And yes, the marketing of news is relentless, because news is massively important in the abstract, and – shock horror – to the bottom line of commercial broadcasters. However, I imagine Mike McRoberts has little or no say in that marketing strategy, and I suggest you go back and listen to his comments about that.
And I actually did see interesting information in Mike’s reports but you clearly weren’t very interested in the content, as you were too busy being appalled by his presence.
Finally Tim, I find your post difficult to take seriously, because of the rather distasteful ad hominen element to it. As I’ve already mentioned, I apologized to Martin in case he felt my original riposte was playing the man not the ball – that certainly wasn’t the intention. Your post verges on the offensive. Firstly, you invent quotes that I didn’t hear in the TV3 report – “unapologetic” and “didn’t care” if someone more seriously injured was bumped because he was “overcome with emotion”. That’s probably just misguided exaggeration. [*SEE BELOW] When you go as far as accusing someone of paying a bribe – with no evidence whatsoever – then frankly I cease to be interested in discussing anything with you.
*NB: I went back to check Mike’s original report on the injured girl, but couldn’t find it, at least on a cursory search. If those quotes are in the story, please let me know.