May 06, 2004

NPR Journalist Turned Aid Worker

AlterNet: Breaking Ranks in Afghanistan via Metafilter

Fascinating article by a former NPR foreign correspondent who gave up reporting to help build a non-governmental organization for helping rebuild Afghanistan.

One interesting point is her take on journalism post-9/11:

And yet it proved a difficult juncture to be an American journalist. "The worst period in my entire career," a dear friend confided as we were comparing notes afterwards. He sent me a list of story ideas his editors had turned down. "They simply didn't want any reporting," he explained. "They told us the story lines, and asked us to substantiate them." CNN correspondents received written instructions on how to frame stories of Afghan suffering. A BBC reporter told me in our Quetta hotel the weekend before Kabul fell how he had had to browbeat his desk editors to persuade them that Kandahar was still standing.

During the early '90s, I attempted to join the ranks of political cartooning. One telling and fascinating point that dissuaded me from becoming a cartoonist was a panel during a convention for the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. The panel contained several editors who ran papers. One flatly stated that a political cartoonist was there to illustrate the paper's position, and nothing more. Several cartoonists objected that this reduced the cartoonists to nothing more than illustrators, to which the editor agreed.

Back at college, I'd re-introduced political cartooning to the paper. The compromise, though, was that I'd illustrate the paper's opinion as well... which, thinking back on it, compromised my cartooning in some ways. If I'd been able to see it from a distance, I might have objected -- but at the time, it was the only forum I had.

Sadly, what I'm trying to say is that this trend is not new; it's been around for years. We're seeing more damning examples of editorial hardlining in the last 3 years, but by no means were these unique. It's just the straw that broke the camel's back.

The question is, can we fix the camel once it's broken? Or must we build a new camel?

Posted by Ted Stevko at May 6, 2004 01:17 PM | TrackBack