Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Aid agencies acting as reporters - should we be concerned?

Aha did that get your attention ?

Then it worked.

This is what a full page spread from the Guardian asked yesterday.

You see it's a no brainer, but the danglingdated question provides a certain oomph for the article.

There's journalism at work for you, words that build an emotive picture.

I first started working with Aid agencies e.g. Medecins Sans Frontieres in 1997 and have come into contact with all manner of agencies attempting to report their findings, whether that's their annual report or what's on the ground.

In the 80s Greenpeace raised the game, becoming frontline campaigner and reporter.

Disrupt the path of the whale hunters, then report/film them for water hosing you.

The BBC learned to its cost on one occasion when film from an agency was said not to be compus, questioning the broadcaster's journalism integrity.

The BBC would then drop the idea of Video News Releases (VNR) entirely.

But oh how matters have changed in the game.

The new media reporters
My last forays into MSF exchanging ideas on news production and editing was about two years ago in Belgium at their International office.

A couple of their staffers were so talented I felt that they would have given any reporter a run for their money in videojournalism and radio reportage/podcasts.

And I don't mind that they're not being objective in their reports because we know first hand who they are and what they stand for.

That's the ecosystem of citizen journalism. If you're transparent in your delivery, what Peter Barron, newsnight editor calls "xtreme transparency then we can make up our own minds over trust levels.

And come on how many times have you found even "real" journalists fall foul of this?

One of the best conflict films I have seen in recent months about war and its effects e.g. rehabilitation, came from one of the agencies, with Claudio Von Planta shooting and directing.

I was asked to provide the voiceover for a couple of reformed militia.

Should we be concerned with aid agencies reporting?

That's a mute point.

Should we be looking to learn from example and report what aid agencies are adept at doing, such as returning to hazard zones when the mainstream media has left ?

Provide a sympathetic tone and visual narrative, eschewing parachute journalism.

Trying to bring show some of the ills of these awful places we've become innured to.

Yes, yes, yes.

In fact this header: Aid agencies show mainstream media how to report, might equally have attracted your attention.

Here for an example of MSF's reportage

p.s Incidentally less we forget, there's a wide body of foreign correspondents who started off their careers working for aid agencies

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