Steve Tuttle from Newsweek is rightfully getting his hide handed to him this week in the aftermath of his piece “Haiti in the Time of Cholera”. There’s plenty of discussion and consternation to go around (and it surely is). But I thought I’d just take on one issue and correct Mr. Tuttle:
If there is anything that I would say as a note to budding photographer: never let the writer decide where you’re going on assignment! Especially if they’re missing the story you know you need to cover.
C’mom guys: humility, communication, team journalism, knowing where you are. It is about the story, not about you! It can’t be this hard and you can’t blame the photographer Mr Tuttle. Thats so tacky.
This brings me back to a post Scott and I wrote in the aftermath of the original Haitian earthquake on January 20, 2010: “More Perspectives on Haiti and Crisis Journalism”. The central idea that seems to overlap between our warnings and pain about reporters reporting on their own good-deeds then and our displeasure with the current Newsweek story is this: “Of course … I am quite happy to see journalists helping out whenever they can (see for instance Christopher Anderson in Lebanon), just keep it the hell out of your ledes and headlines. You are not the story.” By making their story about the first-world challenge of reporting in a fragile environment we have multiple levels of disservice to the real people living the “real story”. They’re not named, they’re subjects on the side of the road as the writer worries about whether he and his team made the best reporting decisions. This article very richly shows us how the sausage of journalism is made, and it is obscene if it is the only report this team returns from Haiti in this moment.