21 Jan 2019 What makes great journalism? On foreign correspondents and terror
Yet another terrorist act played out in Nairobi just two weeks into 2019. Live footage on local television captured scenes of security personnel leading visibly terrified occupants to safety, survivors receiving first aid and nearby crowds ducking for cover at the sound of each explosion. The footage captured security forces ushering foreign journalists closer to the action at the same time as they blocked entry for local journalists. Viewers unwittingly eavesdropped into conversations between local journalists pleading to the security personnel to allow them passage into the building just as they had for their foreign counterparts.
The output of the foreign photo-journalists accorded privileged access to the scene is captured in images published in international media. What makes great or ethical, professional, journalism? Certainly not the name of the media in which it is published, as seen with the New York Times that emulated tabloid coverage and still stands by its choices despite the readers’ #SomeoneTellNYTimes and the Kenyan government’s demands to pull down the graphic images of bloody, lifeless bodies.
Is great journalism made by the editor, as suggested in the NYT East Africa Bureau chief Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura’s Twitter response to pressure to pull down the photos? “Well, no, because I don’t choose the photos. Please direct your message to our photo desk. Thanks,” (@kimidefreyas January 15).
We have a problem if what makes for professionalism rests entirely in the hands of editors. It is unfortunate when trained journalists divest themselves of responsibility for images and narratives they chose to submit for publication. Even more deplorable is when media make justifications for content that intensifies their audiences’ grief and standing by their arguments at all costs. Fortunately, in the Nairobi case, there are great examples in local and some international media of what sensitive coverage can and should be.
#unbowed #dusitd2 #riversideattack @NYTimes
Photo above by ©Reuters / Baz Rather