Danger In Numbers

Friday, January 22, 2010


Some OTM listeners following the coverage of the earthquake in Haiti have written us to point out the sheer numbers of reporters who had made their way to the stricken island. In a commentary for The New Republic, senior editor Noam Scheiber suggests that the press should cover disasters like Haiti the same way it covers the day-to-day activities of the President: through a pool.

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Comments [5]

Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

My thoughts about the local reporters are two-fold. One, their circumstances are so strained, I have doubts about their ability to adequately cover the story. (As with the missing police, they are probably focused their own and their loved ones' medical, food and shelter needs rather than reporting.) Second, they are predominantly Creole speakers.

What came to my mind while listening were all the criticisms launched by the press, during the Copenhagen climate conference, of all the officials' carbon footprints from attending the conference. Of course, they didn't mention their own footprints but this segment at least called them to account for their shenanigans this time.

Jan. 27 2010 04:00 AM
Laura Barnitz from New Delhi, India

As someone who has spent a good deal of time trying to get any media coverage of health and development issues, I listened to this interview with some skepticism. Although there is room to argue that too many journalists were covering issues and perspectives related to Haiti's tragic earthquake with some redundancy and perhaps with some coverage decisions reflecting questionable ethics, I was overjoyed to see good coverage of the crisis for one week. There are still plenty of stories to tell in Haiti, and I hope they all don't go home now, but I also agree that news organizations should provide for the needs of their employees -- who have a legitimate job to do -- so that they don't consume resources badly needed by the local population. The notion of recommending "pool" coverage would, in my mind, provide the world with the same kind of insipid and uninspired coverage we see from the White House press pool. Instead, why don't news organizations use fewer "imports" and support local journalists -- men and women who badly need income in this trying time -- and who have the right experience, insight and understanding to tell the stories that need to be told.

Jan. 26 2010 06:42 AM
John Rinehart from Reading, PA

The discussion regarding on-the-ground reporting of the Haitian crisis raised some interesting questions. I was interested in the unansewered question, "How can the U.S. media make better use of the local media?" Rarely did I hear from local reporters, or reporters already there, whether commercial or public.

Jan. 24 2010 11:27 AM
sid from Miami

I have a direct opposite take on the piece than the writer above and I believe the point of this story was spot on. There were flat out too many reporters, too much redundant coverage, and too many on the scene commentators taxing a very stressed situation. It is NOT unfair to question how many doctors had a more difficult time getting into the country because someone felt it necessary to send in just one more reporter. I thought about that and when I did I got angry.

Jan. 23 2010 05:56 PM
Renee Cobb from Arlington, VA

I thought this commentary sounded ridiculously naive and seemed to be more about the author patting himself on the back for being a such a good liberal (suggesting the reporter is taking food from the Haitans simply by being there). And I consider myself liberal! The amount of money flowing into Haiti is a result of all types of media coverage in all types of languages.

Different people are attuned to different types of media and all types of people are giving as a result of this coverage.

Further as the media continue to "compete" for stories they uncover additional needs, situations and information, all of which can be useful to aid groups and the media. I am not suggesting the media is perfect - they are making mistakes and there are certainly ways for it to improve or questions as to the best means of coverage.

I was sorry that this individual was given a platform and even more sorry that he was not sufficiently questioned or challenged. Speaking of media, this seemed like bad interviewing and made me wonder why I would listen to such a program.

Jan. 23 2010 04:31 PM

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