The Listening Post

At the centre of the storm: Covering Haiyan

As Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, we look at the media’s role in the aftermath of natural disasters.

There is a familiar media narrative that follows natural disasters. Journalists arrive in numbers and immediately report on the aftermath and the casualty figures. Then the focus shifts to the relief operation before the story becomes about the desperate measures taken by those affected and the failures of those responsible for helping them.

The coverage of Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Yolanda, has followed that pattern. This was the biggest land typhoon ever recorded, which made it tough for the Filipino media to cover. The foreign media, meanwhile, had to try to make sense of the story and provide accurate reports at a time when information and misinformation were coming at them thick and fast.

Talking us through the story this week is Glenda Cooper, a PhD researcher at City University; Jacobo Ocharan, the head of Disaster Management at children’s NGO Plan International; Jamela Alin-Dogan, Al Jazeera’s correspondent; and Mel Fernandez, the editor of Filipino News.

In this week’s Newsbytes: Bloomberg parts company with the reporter who allegedly leaked the story about the outlet self-censoring on China stories; Russian media tycoon Alexander Lebedev announces he wants to become an investigative journalist; and the Toronto mayor battling to save his political career after admitting to smoking crack loses his TV show.

The challenges of covering Syria

Syria has become one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a journalist. Latest figures show that more than 110 media workers have lost their lives covering the conflict. The increasingly volatile situation has meant that mainstream media have grown increasingly reluctant to send staff to the country.

As a result, a lot of the reporting has been done by a network of freelance journalists. Being an independent journalist is challenging at the best of times and when a story is as difficult and dangerous as Syria, the number of things that can go wrong are pretty high.

Listening Post’s Gouri Sharma looks at the difficulties freelancers have faced covering the Syrian conflict. 

Last year we showed you a spoof charity song that came out of Norway asking Africans to donate radiators to freezing Norwegians. That video was produced to make a point about the sometimes patronising and misguided appeals for Africa. Our web video of the week is designed to do the same thing. It features a child actor who will not mould to stereotype – and the aid workers who do. It is called Let’s Save Africa! Gone wrong – and is funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.


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