Sharing Discussing Understanding

Commonwealth Journalists' Association

Hubert Lacroix - Courtesy of CBA

By Will Henley

When faced with a crisis, what makes the media resort to condescending, patronising, cliched and predictable coverage? Why do broadcasters fall into the trap of arriving too late and leaving too early?

These questions were raised at last week’s Commonwealth Broadcasting Association conference in Brisbane by Australian TV news reporter Yalda Hakim, who won plaudits for her coverage of the Libyan conflict from the Tunisian border for SBS world affairs programme Dateline.

“Although for audiences, issues dealing with refugees and internally displaced people in camps can be a turn off, we still have a responsibility to report and understand the source of the problems, even when they are no longer making headlines,” she said.

“It’s easy to zoom in on and show a close-up of a child eating their last bit of breadcrumb, or a stretched out hand reaching for aid, but to actually give them an identity and know why and how they came to be in that situation is a completely different story.”

As Hakim surmised after reporting on frantic scenes of migrant workers clambering for food, shelter and passage home, even the most well-meaning of journalists can be constrained in their attempt to reveal the wider context to a crisis by the perception that it is somewhat superfluous, or even distasteful, to get the fuller picture.


More information on the CBA Brisbane conference is available here.