It’s not that we don’t cover bomb attacks in Beirut and elsewhere, but sometimes the viewer shows less interest. Many are more interested in show business, celebrity and news closer to home.
I have spent my whole career reporting atrocities in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. That’s what I do. Some people watch and care. But many people, if I’m honest, switch off.
At Channel 4 News we continue to report the war in Syria (I was just there – did you watch my reports?), the resulting refugee crisis (ditto) and events like the Al Shabaab attack in Garissa, in northern Kenya in April.
But sometimes I feel we’re howling in the dark because so few of you respond.
She has a point, but only to an extent. The media editors are the ones who decide what prominence to give stories, and they are the ones who choose entertainment over news in Africa or Arab countries. The huge coverage over Boko Haram kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria the exception that proves the rule: the media can drive the agenda when it wants to.
But there is an important point that Hilsum makes that is all too rarely mentioned, and even she downplays it:
There are also practical issues – South Beirut, where last Thursday’s bombing occurred, is controlled by Hizbollah, who rarely let journalists film and never freely. There’s no way the hundreds of journalists who descended on Paris would have been permitted to flood a Hizbollah area for days on end. But that’s just a logistical issue, not your problem.Which means that atrocities in Arab countries that censor the media cannot have the same coverage as incidents in countries with a free press.
Reporters are partially at fault here. Only rarely do they mention, when they are filing their reports, that they cannot say the full story. And the readers and viewers not only have a right but an obligation to know that they are not seeing the whole picture. If journalists cared about getting the truth out there, they would publicly push back on Hezbollah and Hamas and other terror groups that control territory rather than roll over and report what the despots want them to report. Reporters have the ability to shame the terrorists, but given a choice of telling the truth or quietly acquiescing to file the half-story, they almost invariably choose the latter. (An enterprising reporter can do far more - give their bureau chiefs anonymous quotes that support the full picture and have them co-write the story from the main offices out of reach of the terrorists, for example, and to publicly report the threats that they receive.)
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