My blood is boiling after reading all the comments on Twitter on the Clarissa Ward report about Myanmar. In my blog yesterday I explained why the CNN journalist’s visit to Myanmar is problematic. Yesterday her report was broadcasted and the 8 minutes and 34 seconds of her (excusez le mot) dumbness reporting totally proves the point that parachute journalism is over. Nothing she reports is new information, it’s all about her. And it’s embarrassing.
What worries me even more though is the lack of white Western journalists making a fuss about this. It reminds me of the popular quote used in antiracism “white silence is violence”, which is totally applicable in this case.
Days like this make me doubt whether to write a detailed analysis of Ward’s reporting or to just comment on Twitter and in blogs like this. The whole case gives me a feeling of powerlessness about the change in the journalism industry. And at the same time that feeling raises a strength from inside: don’t give up.
I really hope I can make my point clear here, that’s ultimately my goal within my work: not to just condemn people or act as if I’m the one who knows it all. Instead, I’m on a mission to explain how to look at a case like this in a bigger picture of systemic racism and whiteness.
A few months ago I’ve interviewed Alan Soon of Splice Media and he already mentioned parachute journalism in our conversation, saying:
“These are big global media companies but that seems to suggest you couldn’t find talent locally to help you tell that story. Which would be a far richer story because it’s explained by a local. I still see a lot of that and it frustrates me because there is just no excuse for that anymore.”
In his latest newsletter he condemns Ward’s action:
“It’s 2021 and we’re still parachuting celebrity white journalists into hotspots to report from these “far-flung” places.”
Alan Soon and Rishad Patel of Splice Media are important voices in global journalism. They’ve built a strong network of Asian journalists and at the same time they know how to connect with the Western media world.
I believe this is mostly how change in the industry will happen: instead of waiting for white Western journalists to change their perception of Asia, it’s much better if Asia’s journalism eco system gets stronger and more powerful.
To me this is similar to the media diversity discussion where we still talk about white newsrooms and solutions to change that. Lots of Black media initiatives have been founded already, time’s up.
That’s why we shouldn’t talk about inclusive journalism along these lines anymore. It’s becoming increasingly clear that if white journalists don’t change their own perception, they will miss out in building trust amongst their audience in the long run. Clarissa Ward and CNN need self-reflection on this topic. But that will never happen if not more white Western journalists speak out about this.
And even though I believe the biggest change in creating a more inclusive industry will come from new initiatives outside of the white Western world, I also think that before that happens we need to put all our efforts on damage control. And Clarissa Ward’s reporting is another sad example of why that’s necessary.
I wish there was a global press criticism initiative that will hold international media accountable for actions like this. Professor of journalism in New York Jay Rosen – who also calls himself someone who ‘critiques the press’ – can be part of it. I’ve emailed him this morning, let’s see if I get a response. And at the same time maybe this should also come from outside of The West. Let Asian journalists unite and set up a declaration of condemnation of CNN’s reporting. With the ultimate message saying: enough is enough. No more parachute journalism in our areas.