Objectivity

As a communications student, David Loyn’s (BBC Afghanistan correspondent) article for the Guardian critiquing Jon Snow’s Gaza video appeal was quite interesting. I’ve posted the video below along with my own thoughts as part of the post titled ‘Gaza’. I found it very moving.

I expect journalists to be affected by what they witness. It would be mad if they weren’t; they’re human. But Loyn raises a salient (yeah, maybe a bit of inside cricket here) point on impartiality and professional media values – at least here in the UK. The US is a different story, but perhaps not as different as we would like to think as we sit over here on our high horses. You only have to look at the right-wing monstering of Ed Miliband on a regular basis to see that our press is hopelessly biased.

But our TV? Yes, but less so perhaps. And Loyn is concerned at the framing of Snow’s statement – on Youtube certainly so not broadcast on Channel 4 – but still filmed in the studio, in his capacity as anchor of the news show. The reporting that Loyn holds up as exemplary and restrained, in particular Peter Beaumont’s piece on the father who gathered the remains of his two year-old in a plastic bag, is seared into my memory. Although it was done with restraint, the radio piece was so evocative that it has stayed with me.

In his appeal, Snow said the world had shown it was not that interested in the death of children in Gaza. Almost three-quarters of a million hits showed that many were interested. But how did they know enough to care? Not from reporters who had put their emotions on show. Instead, the horrors of Gaza have been bravely narrated by reporters fully equipped with compassion and empathy, but not wallowing in their own feelings.

The piece that inspired Giles Fraser to his incoherent appeal that “screaming is the most rational thing to do” – Peter Beaumont’s description of a father gathering the remains of his baby son in a carrier bag – is not reported emotionally. Instead, the writing is poetic in its spare intensity. “ ‘This is my son,’ he said and nothing else, tears tracking down his face.” The missile that entered the house made a hole “the size of a toaster”. The domestic details take us there, and when we arrive, we find Beaumont, one of the finest reporters of his generation, to be a helpful guide, not an obstacle. He is not in our way telling us how he feels.”

I certainly don’t hold it against Jon Snow to have said what he did. Channel 4 did make an effort to separate reporting from commentary, too. That said, Loyn does make a good argument for restraint and objectivity. In the end, though, the facts of the conflict stand apart as truly awful, all on thier own.

 

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