Thursday, April 17, 2008

Aid workers and the media - a match made in hell?

So, to the Frontline Club this Tuesday for the latest Dispatches from Disaster Zones events organised by the Red Cross (I'm part of the DfDZ task force). This was entitled as above, and certainly the er spirited nature of the debate at times seemed to be nearer hell than heaven.
Those taking part in the debate were Bill Neely of ITN, Greg Barrow of WFP, Dominic Nutt of SCF (disclaimer:my husband) and Martyn Broughton of AlertNet.
What was interesting was when it wasn't the media who were accused of sensationalising things for once; Broughton pointed out that an "awful triage" exists in NGO press offices just as in newsrooms in considering stories. Marc du Bois of MSF raised the question of whether humanitarian organisations were soemtimes tempted to fund projects that were media friendly (in my view that was certainly the case in the tsunami when very many NGOs flocked towards building houses) and Neely pointed out an AlertNet weekly bulletin sent to journalists talking about stories concerning flesh-eating diseases that, he said had a "Daily Star" ring to them (AlertNet via Megan Rowling rebutted this)
What I found interesting in particular was Broughton's point that UGC could hold aid agencies to account in a way that hadn't been done before. And Barrow's assertion that maybe agencies were too obsessed by the media that it often wasn't "make-or-break" to get in the press/on TV as most projects would still be funded.
Oh and thanks to Bill Neely for mentioning my research! At least I know one person has read it now....

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