Poor press coverage of Haiti

Quoting Carla Murphy who highlights a regrettable tendency in international press coverage of Haiti in her latest DH blog post:

I really, really wanted to like Mac McClelland’s one-year anniversary article, Aftershocks: Welcome to Haiti’s Reconstruction Hell.  Good writing aside however—and the fact that these guys and many of these guys dug it—I have a problem with a 6,000-word piece of journalism that holds no specific office or official to account for Port-au-Prince’s misery upon miseries [...]
That’s like there being a decade-long rape epidemic in New York City and a reporter not asking any public official, why? Followed by, what are you doing about it? Followed by, why aren’t you doing anything about it? — Snow wasn’t removed on time after a huge storm this holiday season and within hours every New Yorker knew the name of the head of the department of sanitation.  No reporter would’ve covered that story without answering the main question: “Who f%$ked up?”—and that’s just snow.  The same news gathering standard should apply to rape.

Unfortunately McClelland’s, “no one’s in charge” message regarding Haiti is the norm.  Foreign journalists and bloggers rarely name officials below the level of Bill Clinton, René Préval, Jean-Max Bellerive or Nigel Fisher.  (I recall being pleasantly surprised last year when a real-life mayor of Port-au-Prince appeared during a 60 Minutes segment.) 
But bureaucracies —as broken, inefficient, corrupt, overwhelmed, under-resourced, under-staffed or disparate as they may be—exist in Haiti.
Camps have residential leadership structures.  Various international NGOs also visit or manage camps.  The UN’s International Organization for Migration oversees camp coordination. Then of course there is local government, police and Haiti’s women’s and health ministries as well as the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC).  Journalists undercut any possibility of public pressure on the cogs within the above bureaucracies when we write them out of our stories… when we write them out of the public suffering for which they are responsible.
But these omissions happen again and again, as is to be expected, when parachute journalists write for parachute readers. 
Read more

Enter your Email

1 comment:

Nadine said...

"Journalists undercut any possibility of public pressure on the cogs within the above bureaucracies when we write them out of our stories…"

I'm sorry, but I don't see why your average US-based reader needs to be involved in "putting pressure" on Haitian government workers.

Local [Haiti] media carries that responsibility towards Haitian citizens, its true, and does a variable job at it.

Instead of whining about foreign press coverage, how about asking folks to support the various institutions in Haiti that provide coverage focused on social issues, and support for community radio and other independent media - like Alterpresse, SAKS or REFRAKA?

But most annoying about this is the assumption that government employees are isolated from the "public suffering" - whereas the vast majority of Haitian government employees face the same issues their mothers, cousins, neighbours, face: lack of access to clean water, energy, decent housing, quality free education for their kids...

Not to mention that nearly 20,000 of them died during the quake - from the highest ranking to the most humble - so they and their families are as much victims of the lack of enforcement of building codes and the other chain of issues that caused shoddy building in Port-au-Prince and across the nation.