The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has cautioned
reporters working "tirelessly" in Haiti to "avoid making
themselves part of the story."
That comes in response to newspaper stories raising concerns
about journalists caught in the middle of a crisis where the need for help is
"I think it's important for journalists to be cognizant
of their roles in disaster coverage," said SPJ President Kevin Smith.
"Advocacy, self promotion, offering favors for news and interviews, injecting
oneself into the story or creating news events for coverage is not objective
reporting, and it ultimately calls into question the ability of a journalist to
be independent, which can damage credibility."
So, SPJ isn't saying that a medical correspondent shouldn't render
aid in a crisis.
"No, I'm not saying that," Smith told B&C. "What we are saying is
that it is walking a very tight rope."
"Journalists need to be cognizant of what their role
and responsibility is there. It doesn't mean you can't lend assistance or
aid," he says. "We understand a lot of humane activity is going on
there." What he wants journalists to think about is whether they are doing
it for an exclusive story or footage.
Smith says there is just a little "too much participatory
journalism going on."
He says the public and even his first-year journalism
students "are starting to question what they see taking place down there
as maybe not being our primary and first responsibility."