Wednesday, April 14, 2021

In trip to Burma, CNN was naive, found nothing new, posed a risk to locals, and was self-congratulatory; rely on locals!

Myanmar (Wikipedia map)
A piece about CNN's recent trip to Myanmar (formerly Burma) may not seem like grist for The Rural Blog, but it teaches universal lessons, which many rural journalists and other rural residents already know, about the pitfalls of parachute reporting and the importance of local reporting.

Longtime international-conflict reporter Philip C. Winslow, who once lived and reported in rural Kentucky, writes from Chiang Mai, Thailand, 80 miles from Myanmar, that CNN found nothing new, posed risks to locals and was naive but nevertheless self-congratulatory. 

The trip was "tightly controlled by Myanmar’s junta," and security forces detained women who had talked to correspondent Clarissa Ward, reports Winslow, who has spent much time in the country. "Families spent anguished hours fearing the worst, which in Myanmar is never far away."

Ward acknowledged the issues in a talk with CNN anchors, one of whom bragged about her "getting that exclusive. That's the first time that we are seeing that and hearing that because she's there on the ground." Such is "standard preening for CNN," which "may have missed the weeks of graphic video and photos Myanmar journalists have been filing on their own news platforms and to international agencies," Winslow writes. "CNN has said they were assured they would be able to move around and report freely. It’s an assurance that no one familiar with Myanmar would have bought."

Winslow says "Less turbulent situations may remain suitable for the old news model" of parachute journalism, "but not stories where the presence of a foreign news crew endangers the people whose abuse they’ve come to report, and who know the story inside out. Technology has evolved too. Data and high-resolution video are transmitted any number of ways, which evolve as fast as autocrats try to squash them. Local women and men across Myanmar have been reporting the conflict for years" for The Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, Agence France-Presse, "and agencies from Europe, Japan and elsewhere in Asia," he notes. "They seldom get public recognition for their work, which is fine with them: getting the story out is all that matters."

No comments: