Two weeks after the earthquake in Haiti, some wonder whether the heavy media presence in the country isn't doing more harm than good. CNN correspondent Sanjay Gupta's on-air treatment of an injured girl has probably occasioned more praise, and more uneasy questions about objectivity, than any other news segment since the disaster struck. But beyond Gupta, watchdogs have taken issue with the tenor of coverage (including the still-prevalent use of the word "looting"), the erosion of journalistic neutrality, and the sheer number of reporters in a country straining to meet the needs of its citizens.
- Worse Than Underfoot Time's Jay Newton-Small, herself reporting from Haiti, notes that news teams who distribute supplies can end up inciting a press of desperate people--a sight then beamed to audiences. "The longer the tv crew remains the more violent the crowd gets: people are desperate especially when they think they're vying for a few pieces of food or water that they may not get if they're not out in front."
- Making Criminals Out of Victims At Tom Dispatch, Rebecca Solnit picks up the anti-"looting" cry and demands that reporters stop seeing crime in the actions of every survivor. "Those in power, those with guns and the force of law behind them, are too often more concerned for property than human life. In an emergency, people can, and do, die from those priorities. Or they get gunned down for minor thefts or imagined thefts. The media not only endorses such outcomes, but regularly, repeatedly, helps prepare the way for, and then eggs on, such a reaction."
- Everybody Into the Pool Noam Scheiber at The New Republic frets that "journalists must eat, drink, and circulate once they're in Haiti. As a practical matter, it means they often end up mooching off supplies intended for earthquake victims." Scheiber proposes a "disaster pool" to limit the number of correspondents saturating a troubled area: "The arrangement would obviously be less than ideal for the outlets with the biggest budgets. But, collectively, the media would have the peace of mind of knowing it's not exacerbating the same problems it's trying to alleviate."
- Be One Thing or the Other Eric Deggans at the St. Petersburg Times suggests that reporters like Gupta who want to do their part should leave their day job at the door. "When you're a relief worker, be a relief worker 100 percent--don't have your camera crew taking pictures, don't interview anyone, and don't use anything you witness in any news story. When you're done helping deal with the crisis, put your reporter's hat on and rejoin the fray as a journalist."
- Work Only We Can Do On The Huffington Post, Rob Crilly offers a defense of the fourth estate, and some thoughts on its role in times of crisis. "My belief is that few things benefit from less coverage. The job of a journalist is to bear witness, to bring home stories of suffering so that the rest of the world cannot ignore what is happening. My job is not to distribute food, water or medicine. My aid comes in a different form."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.