Friday, October 20, 2006

Life on the front line.

I spent the morning at the Frontline Club ( This is an alternative media club set up by a co-operative of freelances who used to work in warzones and promotes independent journalism, runs discussions and events ( as well as having what's meant to be a very good restaurant and - they say - a 'blistering wine list'). It's great - all distressed rugs, old battered leather sofas and lots of books. My ideal room.
I'd gone to meet Mark Brayne who runs the Europe office of Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma to talk about what happens when journalists work closely with aid workers and in situations that are often very distressing.
The Frontline's the kind of place that while you're just sitting there you bump into people - in the time I was talking to Mark we met someone who'd been out helping give out aid during the tsunami . He said that he had found it very frustrating when aid helicopters were taken up with journalists - meaning that they couldn't get as much aid out.
Whose fault is that though? The journalists would say they have to go to see for themselves - and often the aid agencies are keen to get journalists out with them (see the quotes from David Shukman below). And without the coverage - would the money and aid flood in? Do aid agencies believe that one seat on a helicopter less pays off in the positive effect that a striking colour piece could bring?
Or are the aid agencies finding that trying to do their work comes second to journalists desperate to get the story? - and that aid should never be delayed so that a journalist can get to a place?

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