Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Looking in the mirror
In the past there has been the idea that journalists and aid workers are fundamentally opposed to each other. One group are hardened old hacks the other are weedy humanitarians. But I was listening to a podcast of a debate between journalists and aid workers entitled Children, crises and the media and I heard Gordon Weiss of UNICEF make what I think is a very interesting point:
The crude divide between teddybear carrying journalists* and bleeding heart humanitarians is closing. The transition of the media into 24 hour news cycle means that we don't know what is going to happen. Papers like the Times are going to have to compete with those who can very cheaply travel to those parts of the world and upload their video and news stories or blogs and trigger a news landslide like we saw in Niger
Weiss raises an issue both for the media - who's going to decide what's a story if anyone can generate content and for aid workers - who should they be focusing on to sell their stories too these days?I've just come back from a seminar about the blogosphere at Green College in which John Naughton, an expert in this field and Observer columnist warned against thinking that new media means old media will be wiped -it's just a time of tremendous adaptation, a different media existence. But both journalists and aid workers have to acknowledge that and think what it means for them.

*Weiss was referring to a comment Mail special correspondent Ann Leslie made in the same debate about the old journo trick of taking a teddybear with you to a disaster so that if there are no abandoned kids to photograph in the rubble the snapper can throw a teddy bear into the debris and hey presto, heartwrenching picture. Maybe I am very sheltered but I've never actually seen anyone do this...Honest

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