7 comments on “Triage: News Media and the Disasters that Languish

  1. Agreed, yet as I read I found myself wondering, if the media did not exist in the myriad of ways it does today, and if we did not have virtually instantaneous world wide coverage, how many of these events would be funded at all? Would we even know of Darfur or any of the others?

    As a baby boomer, I can remember when TV was unique, airline travel almost unheard of, and only for the well off. Entertainment was mostly from the radio, and the only news you actually saw was in the theater. The rest you read in the paper, and that might be several days old IF there had been a stringer there to report it to begin with.

    No, it’s doesn’t make it right, but it is worth contemplating.

    The other question to ask is how much is our fault? After all is not the media just peddling what we, the public, “buy”? Every news-person learns from the get go that blood sells, violence sells, the more gristly and spectacular the better … misery, poverty, disease, squalor, not so much. Perhaps those things just hit a little to close to home … there but for the grace of God … perhaps they just make us feel a little too guilty….

    Of course if you see a brother or sister in need and don’t do what you can to help, then maybe you need to feel guilty. Food for thought.

    • hisfool- I’d actually forgotten I’d queued this up to be posted and I think the article is 75% complete. Aside from the title (erm… needs help), you’ve reminded me of the other 25% which I had planned to put in there but which I managed to distract myself from while hammering out the first draft- namely, the responsibility of the consumer. Absolutely we are accountable for the fact that we switch the channel the moment something comes on that doesn’t initially jiggle our entertainment bone. A little commiment to our fellow human beings is definitely lacking. I think we owe those less fortunate than ourselves a smidgen of our attention, even when we don’t feel like it. Thanks for the reminder.

      And you’re absolutely right- the media, for all its flaws, does give us access in near-real-time to those things of importance happening around us and mobilizes tremendous support. I think my argument would be for a media that is more cognisant of this fact- and therefore more willing to own up to its responsibility and work harder to shape events, and not just witness them.

      I may add some of this thinking in a later post (now that this one has already bolted from the leash…)

      Thanks for your thoughtful contribution as always.

  2. Hi MoreAltitude, love your blog and have learned an amazing amount about international crisis and aid. I will always try to help wherever I can..short of giving cash. I have given food, blankets, time and more. But (and this is largely due to the media hype we see here in the US) I usually don’t trust that cash will be used where it is most needed. Do you have any thoughts on that? Also, Is there a place you trust where small amounts of $$ can be given on a regular basis? Thanks…

    • Sue thanks so much for your kind message and for your interest.

      Actually I have *plenty* of thoughts on the issue of giving ‘stuff’ rather than ‘cash’. First off, before launching into it though, I want to commend your attitude and your heart to give. People like you who want to give and learn are what allows support to get into places that are hurting.

      I’ve not really posted much about the issues of giving ‘stuff’ on this website (other than the 1 Million T-Shirts debate), partly because there is SO MUCH AWESOME STUFF written by some of my contemporaries on the blogosphere. The basic premise, as a rule, is that by donating goods internationally, there is a high risk that a) they won’t be what’s most appropriate to the context, b) they’ll cost huge amounts of money to ship and c) they stand a good chance of undermining the local economy. Among other evils. It’s a hard truth to hear, especially by people who are concerned that their funds won’t be well used. However can I suggest you look at this page by Saundra (Good Intentions are Not Enough) which has links to a whole series of extremely articulate, intelligent and spot-on posts as to why giving ‘stuff’ is actually not the best way forwards, and why in fact cash is the best way to go.

      You’re right of course- cash can be misused or poorly used, and so you need to do your research into what NGO or charity you want to give to. The decision around this should be based on a few different things. Firstly, from a personal perspective, it’s worth checking the ethos of the organization. Does it have a particular set of values or a mission (e.g. is it faith-based and is this important to you?); is it committed to the long-term welfare of the communities it’s partnering with (sustainability)? Does it run its programs in direct conjunction with the communities it’s purporting to help (participation, empowerment, accountability)? Does it publish its annual reports and financial data in an accessible location (transparency; this enables you to see exactly where your money is going)? Is it involved in cutting-edge best practice, or is it still carrying out outdated development and relief activities (e.g. is it just doing truck-and-chuck handouts that continue the cycle of dependency)? In its literature, does it refer to the people it’s trying to help as partners and people with dignity, or does it make you pity them as poor, shirtless, desperate people in need of any old thing you can chuck at them?

      There’s three major perspectives that need to be understood by people wanting to give to a situation. Firstly, that by giving the wrong thing, you can actually make the situation worse. Secondly, that the people you’re giving to are not just hapless victims, but are real people with aspirations, abilities, capacities, creativity and energy, all of which can and must be harnessed to respond to any crises they are facing- ideally on their own terms. Thirdly, that the services that good-quality NGOs provide in this process are often not related to the delivery of things (food, water, hospitals, medical supplies- although in some circumstances these do have their place- unlike, for the most part, t-shirts and shoes) but actually are related to the delivery of services, of expertise, of facilitation, and of processes. These things are, to the donor, more intangible, harder to account for, often appear to be related to ‘salaries’ and other unattractive costs, and are therefore unsexy and frequently result in people prefering to give ‘things’. However if the organization is doing things right, then these services should be enabling and multiplying, and have far greater impact than giving, say, a box of used clothes, or a food parcel.

      I hope that gives you some things to think about. Please do follow the links to my colleagues’ sites- they are extremely eloquent, concise and intelligent, and will hopefully help elucidate any questions that remain.

      Again, thanks for your heart and for your interest to learn Sue.

    • Sue- just a note to let you know that I have actually created a post around your comment which has now been published on my blog. Thanks for your input!🙂

  3. Pingback: Good Intentions Are Not Enough » Blog Archive » Media’s Impact on Aid

  4. Pingback: Media’s Impact on Aid | Good Intentions Are Not Enough Media’s Impact on Aid | An honest conversation about the impact of aid

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