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5852: Re: 5524: Re: 5514: Response to story of attack on journalists (fwd)

From: Dave Fonda <fonphoto@snip.net>

I, too, feel that I must add my voice to this subject.  And, if you will, a voice that has a more realistic view of journalism.

>It is appalling how many men and women in many capacities but mostly in  
>journalism, actually make a living off Haiti and its problems.

This is an uninformed, unthought-out, inflametory statement.  Nobody, outside of the very few (a dozen, maybe?) journalists working for Haitian publications, makes a living solely off of reporting on Haiti. 


The plain and simple truth is that relatively few people outside of Haiti give a damn about Haiti.  And if they don¹t care about it, they don¹t care to read about it....  unless there is something sensational to read about, and for the general public, sensational means negative.  Is it right?  Of course not, but it is the way it is.

The people who are really making money off of Haiti are the business people taking advantage of Haiti¹s condition, many of whom are Haitians themselves.  And the last thing they want is for the world to know just how unfair things are there.  They would be thrilled if nothing was ever written about Haiti;  if no images ever made it to our door steps;  if the first-world knew nothing at all of Haiti and it¹s problems.

> The complexities of this poor country are consistently exploited in the most 
>unattractive fashion linked with tabloid journalism.

Take a look at a tabloid.  The last thing they have any interest in is a complex issue.  And the tabloid reading public is far more interested in the problems of the rich and famous, than of the poor and down-trodden.  Those who read tabloids want to know that those who are better off than themselves have problems too, they want to see the mighty fall.  They have no interest in those whose problems are greater than their own, that would make them feel fortunate and rob them of their ability to complain about their lot in life.  Haiti provides no fodder for the tabloid journalist.

>One wonders who and where the true analysts are.  Gruesome facts will always 
>be associated with a country so impoverished it cannot find, let alone 
>present another face without some measure of understanding from the Press.

Other than the acedamicians, journalists are the most informed people out there.  A journalists job is to spend the time and effort required to understand and analyze a situation, and then to interpret it in a manner that can be understood by, and to report it to, those who can not spend that time and effort.  The fundamental short coming is in the necessary simplification required by the process of reporting complex issues.  The problem is compounded by my first point....  the less interested people are in a subject, the less time they¹re willing to spend trying to understand it, so even if the journalist writes a stupendously insightful and comprehensive story, his/her editor will not run it in it¹s entirety because the readers will not read it in it¹s entirety. 

>It is a complex issue, but sensational reporting, photos of the desperately 
>poor, concentration on death, reports of constant violence have not even 
>come close to presenting any reasonable solution to assisting a depleted economy. 

It is NOT the journalist¹s job to solve problems.  It IS their job to bring attention to those problems.  It is our job as advocates of Haiti to work on the solutions.

> The Haitian people have an uncanny way of "saying it like it is".

Also the journalists job.  Are journalists perfect?  Who among us is.  But ask the reporters at the Washington Post and the Boston Globe what happens when they intentionally mis-represent the facts....  they loose their jobs.

> It would be great if the journalists maybe said it like it was, then 
>actually gave a little credit here and there to any positive sign of hope 
>they might find (there are some),

Take a look at the articles that appear right here on the Corbett list.  I haven¹t done a count, and they may not be in the majority, but there are many articles that emphasis positive aspects of Haiti and Haitians.  As for the greater emphasis on the negative, this is hardly limited to reportage on Haiti....  see point 1 above.

> encouraging positive views to emerge even 
>slightly suppress the ever-constant negative views.
A dangerous step towards manipulation of the press.  There has been a lot of talk the last two weeks about the structuring of the U.S. government and how it is playing out in the Presidential elections.  It may not be pretty, but it will be done according to the law.  What is not being talked about is that we would have no way of knowing this if it were not for a free and independent press.  People may not like to admit it, but a free press is as essential to democracy as any other element of government.  It is truely the Fourth Estate.  Manipulating the press is as risky as manipulating any branch of the government.

>photos or videos they know will shock audiences and make money for the photographer or journalist.

>going back to NYC with those photos and publishing them in a well-known magazine. He made lots of money. 

>He cited cases where he knows of Americans and Europeans coming there to make pictures and film,
>giving them nothing, and then returning to America and Europe to make much
>money from the pictures and films they made

All too common misconceptions.  Yes, some have become rich because of journalism.  Few, if any, of those who became rich from journalism, were actually journalists.  

Many (though certainly not all) publishers have become wealthy.  But their wealth was derived from the advertising sales dept., not from editorial.  The less they spend on editorial, the greater their profit margin.  Many (yes, probably all!) owners of television stations have become wealthy.  And many news anchors make very good incomes.  But the journalists at the station are at the bottom of the pay scale.  Do the on-air reporters make good money?  If they¹re in a major market, you bet!  (Small markets are a vastly different story.)  Are they truely journalists?  Try a little experiment.  Read your morning newspaper closely, then watch the 6 O-Clock news.  Is scouring the newspaper for an interesting story journalism?

How about the journalists you find actually in Haiti.  They are almost exclusively either print journalists, writers and still photographers who are paid far less than the electronic media, or videographers, the guy/gal behind the camera (need I comment on their income vs. those in front of the camera?)  When was the last time you saw a name (translate as well-paid) on-air personality in Haiti?  

And of those journalists that cover Haiti, very few of them benefit from being on the staff of a publication.  Make no mistake about it, it is a cut-throat business.  Newspapers will have staff photographers, but they generally keep them close to home where they can work more cost effectively.  By and large, they buy stories and pictures of remote locations from news services like AP or from free-lancers.  (And most of the news service writers and photographers are free-lancers or are on the staffs of member publications and receive no extra income for work submitted to the wire service.)  

>"The leader of the group began to preach to me in a loud and agitated voice, how we "blans" come there only to "make
>money off  of them and then leave them with nothing".

First, for a writer to pay a source for information, or for a photo-journalist to pay a subject for taking a picture of them, compromises the story / image at a very basic level because the subject then has a financial stake in the impact of the story / image.  It violates one of the most fundamental rules of journalism.  Tabloids pay for stories.  Tabloid journalism is not journalism.

Secondly, it¹s easy to view someone carrying thousands of dollars worth of equipment as wealthy, even for those of us in the first world who have a better understanding of the realities of first world business.  But what un-biased, informed person views an independent trucker, who may be driving a $200,000 rig but is barely making ends meet, as well off?  Is a mechanic who has thousands of dollars invested in the tools of his trade wealthy?  I could go into the specifics of free-lance income and expenses (and if anyone is truely interested, I can do so off-list), but I think most of you can figure out how small the profit (?) margin really is, after the expenses for film, processing, equipment, travel, insurance, etc., etc. etc., when increasingly monoplized news outlets are applying increasing pressure to their bottom lines.  Suffice it to say that it is not an industry that people get into for the money.  Making a living is a necessity.  It is for all of us.  But if money is all it was about, none of us would be working for Haiti, and there would be no journalists.  (I don¹t mean to portray journalists as saints, but a writer or a photographer can make a heck of a lot more money working for the National Enquirer than for USA Today.)

>I'm much less of a bleeding heart than many on this list, and I'm sorry for 
>what happened to you, but he was right.

Was he?  Or was he un-informed?

And finally, about this group that was attacked.  Were they there to sensationalize the plight of those in Cite Soliel?  No.  They were there to report on a group doing positive things for Haiti.  They were simply targets of opportunity. 

I hope this helps to make us all a little more well informed, and a little less willing to take pot-shots at targets of opportunity.

R E S P E C T;

     Dave Fonda

F O N D A   P H O T O G R A P H I C
Corporate, Editorial & Documentary
 610.279.8525      610.279.5978-f

'Sa je pa we, ke pa tounen.'

'What the eye doesn't see, doesn't move the heart.'