Is it Worth Sending Journalists on Location?

You cannot on the one hand insist that the problem with network journalism is a lack of empathy for or perspective on the events they are covering and then at the same time, insist that it’s a waste to send journalists on location to cover major events such as those taking place in Egypt. Do we expect out of our corporate media culture more humanism or more realism?

That’s the question posed by an LA Times article posted by @rachbarnhart today. The article makes the case that, major media stars being the security risk they are, it’s probably better to have them stay home and leave the local reporting to the local reporters.

There is no question that local reporters offer huge advantages when getting a story. Like, when in the middle of a volatile and potentially dangerous crowd of protesters, they’re not the one guy with an accent. They are also heavily invested in the story in a way that a reporter from half a world away simply cannot be. They know the players and the dynamics in a densely-complicated political and social crisis – they are all this complicated, anywhere you go – much better.

Its also unquestionable that sending the pretty, expensive people into the thronging crowds is, while unquestionably a thrill and a vanity for the pretty person, an insurance and legal nightmare that the company should surely have predicted. In fact, any apolitical thug milling about in the crowd out of boredom could make his mark in his neighborhood by taking out such a pretty prize. Neighborhoods in Egypt are, I am certain, not that different from those here.

But it strikes me that the real problem is how misused the anchors were in this situation. No one needs to see Anderson Cooper on top of a tank to get the point. But an interview with Cairo officials, Egyptian officials? Hell, Zahi Hawass even could contribute to a richer understanding of the situation. These are the things the flagship people should have been doing: doing flagship interviews. But instead, the insistence that all things must look and feel like they’re a three dimensional Twitter feed took over – not without a fair amount of ego, I am certain – and we’re left with fairly distracted coverage on the 6:30 news.

And yes, when all is said and done, PBS’s News Hour coverage – safely conducted from home – comes off much better. But that’s not to say they didn’t miss out on a lot, just that the Bigs missed even more.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.