If you feel a news story does not measure up to expected journalistic standards, bring it to the Journalism Dry Cleaner. Through our collective wisdom, we will strip it of all offensive dirt.




Saturday, 16 January 2010


Tens of thousands are dead after the Haiti quake. In such an impoverished country, responding adequately in the aftermath is a difficult affair. So days later, bodies are still out in the streets. Is this a good news angle?

Yes, if you happen to be the much celebrated CNN journalist Anderson Cooper. And to give the story a memorable hook, he decides to tag along as a man loads a coffin onto a cart and embarks on a journey to where a family awaits to bury their loved one.

The CNN crew captures in great detail all the devastation along the way as the cart manoeuvres and dodges dead bodies. Cooper gives a running commentary and occasionally gets into the shot to describe the desperation.

Finally, the coffin is delivered and the family loads the body in it and rushes to a nearby cemetery. Cooper remarks at the misery of not being able to conduct a proper burial for the departed in the circumstances. 

And he also adds that the body is being entombed in a crypt that belongs to another family.

Mockery of Haiti tragedy

Then the camera zooms into the crypt and shows the men piling stones and trying to seal it. To Cooper, this is one body that has at least received some kind of send-off. 

So the entire story is about how one of the many thousands of dead Haitians got buried. Is that worthy of international airing, taking up airtime that could even have been spent making appeals for urgent assistance to Haiti?

And there is something about the tone of the story that makes it even more offensive. Not surprisingly then, Anderson Cooper, as captured in the video link below, also found it relevant to report on the inmates, who escaped after the quake struck Port-au-Prince.

CNN story on escaped inmates after prison walls crumbled in Haiti quake


Alexander Eichener said...

Albert, anybody who mistakes CNN for real news journalism can hardly be helped. Nobody in the civilized world takes them serious anymore. They are the constant laughing stock of real journalists abroad. Only Kenya is glad to be fed with the dregs and leftovers that even CNN regurgitated, clowns such as Jeff "Junior Chief" Koinange.

Albert Gachiri said...

You are probably right Alexander, to some extent. When I spent a few weeks in the US, I hardly came across anyone watching or talking about CNN, yet it's headquarters are in Atlanta. The only place I saw a telly tuned into a CNN Headlines feed was during the Grey Hound bus ride I took to Detroit. CNN's use of holograms to teleport reporters from various locations into its main studios for live interviews, during the last elections in America, was however quite outstanding. Also, I did win a CNN-sponsored Africa journalism award and for that I'm grateful.

Alexander Eichener said...

Dear Albert, I think you mix up three different issues in your response. So let me try to separate them sharper.

1. The fact that the uneducated natives (thus the majority in the Republic of Gilead [(c) by Margaret Atwood]) would often rather watch Faux News - as it is properly spelled - than CNN.

2. The issue of technics in lieu of technique. Impressive. "The white man can make light at night at his whim, he must possess big spells."

3. The query about journalistic quality. It still exists even in the USA, true, but only in some cocooned enclaves. NPR being one of them. CNN is panem et circenses. Not news nor information.

I will not unnecessarily, nor too highly, exalt the "average Kenyan journalist" (if such a fictional animal at all exists), but he or she is certainly one notch above the average US journalist. Hm. Make that two notches.