Hitting the ground in Haiti

The world’s news media went into full disaster
mode this past week. In the Students’ Lounge, the word to graduating students is:
Always be
ready to cover a disaster
.’  Meanwhile,
the Poynter Institute has posted tips for
journalists heading to Haiti.

Australian commentator Tim Burrowes argues that,
far from being ‘vultures’ and ‘in the way,’ journalists play a vital life-saving role in
disaster zones
. Yet Media Matters reports Fox News delivered less than 7 minute of
in its top three newscasts on Jan. 13. Meanwhile, a The Progressive magazine editorial describes CNN as “a carnival barker of death.” These are actually kinder words than Angry Black Woman’s ‘Why
is American TV coverage of Haiti driving me to drink?
’ Amid some profanity,
ABW reminds us of the importance of historical context. For historical context on disaster coverage
itself, read ‘Disaster
reporting through the ages
’ in the Columbia Journalism Review.

The CJR article points out
that toady the line between journalists and sources is blurring. For example, Canadian
blogger Ellen in Haiti provides
daily reports from St. Boniface hospital. Global Voices Online has links to other
Haiti blogs
covering the quake. There has been much ado about Twitter, but Haiti
in 20 tweets
reveals the limits of tweeting as citizen journalism. A more
in-depth on-the-ground alternative is the work of film students in Jacmel, who are
providing excellent daily coverage on the web.   

The contribution of local journalists is
vital to getting the story straight. The International Federation of
Journalists is planning assistance
to Haitian media workers
hit by the quake, while AMARC has launched a global appeal
to rally financial support and equipment donations to Haitian community radio.