Friday 11 April 2008

War Reporting Conference: Part Two

Here's the second half of my update on the war reporting conference on Wednesday.

After Martin Bell had stepped down, Rafael Marques talked about the difficulties of reporting civil war in Angola.
  • In the general debate on the nature of a war reporter's duty, he felt the journalist was obliged to tell the stories of those who are caught up in the suffering of conflict.
Martin Huckerby, former foreign editor of the Observer, argued that journalists reporting war must have a degree of humility.
  • The facts, he said, are not always obvious and there is a need to recognise different approaches and analyses. (This has been brought to the fore by the space for discourse available on the World Wide Web, a place where a multitude of viewpoints are published.)
  • He also noted that journalists need to be aware that they can be co-opted in the information war by both sides.
Stuart Allan took us for a quick spin through the development of blogging and new media in war reporting.
  • The blogs he mentioned (Salam Pax, Baghdad Burning, Stuart Hughes's Iraq Blog, Chris Allbritton's Back to Iraq) do perhaps represent a new type of war reporting that might save the genre from the decline that Martin Bell predicts.
  • Allan's example of the coverage of Saddam Hussein's execution is indicative of the way in which the citizen journalist is much more likely to give us a raw, unedited account of an event. In this instance, it became apparent that the solemn silent coverage of the execution was rather misleading when it was compared to the mobile phone footage taken by a nearby guard. The audio track revealed a much more chaotic scene than the mainstream media had depicted.
Journalist Yvonne Ridley was concerned that there 'appeared to be deliberate attempts to target journalists that were not embedded' by US forces in Iraq.
  • She cited the cases of ITN reporter, Terry Lloyd, and the shelling of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad just over 5 years ago.
Jonathan Baker, deputy head of newsgathering at the BBC, said 'the face of war reporting has changed beyond all recognition'.
  • He noted that technology was leading some of the changes - editing in the field, satellite phone, 24 hour news on TV and radio.
  • He was worried about keeping track of all the information available on the World Wide Web, and argued that the BBC must use the same rigour online as they do for other sources of information.
  • But he believed that the BBC is in a good place to filter and sift through the information thanks to its network of correspondents in the field, the expertise of the language services and the work of the Monitoring Service.
  • In an age when 'everybody is potentially a reporter', the BBC has a role to play as a 'trusted guide' through 'the noise'.


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