Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Thnk global, report local

Jayne sent me this. It's a report on life at the bottom end of the scrap metal trade in Sierra Leone:

Obviously I'm hopelessly under-qualified to comment on any of the substantive issues raised, but, if only because the laws of the blog-world seem to demand that some sort of half-assed commentary be made underneath an embedded video, I think it's worth pointing out that this thing also serves as a pretty good example for the benefits of local reporting.

In the first place, local reporters, by definition, tend to have good knowledge of the place's they're reporting on. But in contexts like Sierra Leone, I think there's the added bonus that home-grown reporting doesn't come with as much "We are taking this very seriously indeed" baggage as you'll get from your average BBC report, where foreign reporters are always trying to somehow put the thing "in context", usually through a lot of grim-faced editorialising.


Blogger Jayne said...

Just to add to this, from my own under-qualified viewpoint.

Local reporting does exactly what you say above and we're slowly getting to a point where it doesn't need an appearance by David Beckham or a voice over by a BBC stalwart to legitimise the situation of someone like Ali and make it worth worrying about (or am I being over optimistic there?).

Journalists like ABJ are not just producing pieces like this one for the likes of Current and an international audience. They are also taking issues like this and putting them out there for interpretation on a national level, in his case on Sierra Leonean radio, newspaper and TV.

For local reporters, getting that balance between creating international interest, but building knowledge and awareness amongst nationals, must be incredibly hard. That goes without even considering the resource and skills base that they simply do not have available to them.

Which raises at least one question... would money be better spent extending this documentary into something longer that links in with the 'bigger picture' - (perhaps shifting the blame/responsibility to a more international situation where presumably some of it does lie) or creating more stories like these that allow people in Sierra Leone to see the situation, reflect on it and start recognising how they themselves can take their part of the responsibility and make it change...?

09 September, 2008 17:05  
Blogger Uncle Petie said...

You'd be in a better position to know the answer to that than me, but I s'pose my original post was pointing in the direction of more local stuff - if local knowledge is the thing that gives home-grown fare an edge over its foreign counterpart, then that's an advantage you just don't have as soon as you start flying to China to follow your story.

But with this particular story, there must be an awful lot further to go up the chain while still being in Sierra Leone.

09 September, 2008 19:31  

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