Elephant’s Leg


RIDING RICKSHAWS IN DAVID CARRADINE’S FOOTSTEPS, CHILD BRIDES IN TOW

Journalism 101: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story

As I work in the press, I’m always quick to defend journalists, especially against the stereotype that they “make things up”.

It is true, though, that facts can be shaped to fit an agenda, and also that whenever there are two or more sides to a story, a journalist can take whichever side best fits his remit. But they can’t simply make things up.

For a start, it’s against the law. If a newspaper prints a story about a person or event, and cannot prove that it is true if required to do so, then it will face penalties.

Take, for example, the 2004 case of the Daily Mirror‘s publication of photos which apparently showed British soldiers abusing an Iraqi captive. Desperate for a sensational scoop, The Mirror didn’t check the authenticity of the pictures, which were later proven to be fake. The result – editor Piers Morgan was fired.

So, a publication really can’t “make things up” without risking personal, political or financial repercussions. However, that’s not to say it never happens. While I may be quick to defend the press against this stereotype, at the same time I am quick to criticise journalists who do contribute to it.

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SOUTH PACIFIC TSUNAMI: WHY SAMOA AND TONGA NEED YOU
Ofu beach, American Samoa

Ofu beach, American Samoa

Again, a part of the world that is dear to me has been devastated by a tsunami.

Last time was the 2004 Boxing Day disaster which wreaked havoc on several Indian Ocean countries, most famously Thailand. This time the Samoan islands have borne the brunt of killer waves resonating from a huge earthquake in Indonesia – also the epicentre of the 2004 catastrophe.

Phuket was worst-hit in 2004, while Krabi also suffered extensive damage, and scenes of the damage there were poignant for me at the time, as I had only two months earlier enjoyed my first trip to Thailand, spending half of it in Krabi, a dramatically beautiful province which remains my favourite place in the kingdom.

Last week the Samoan islands – both independent Samoa and the US territory of American Samoa – were hit by a tsunami of a similar ferocity, with reports of waves of anything between three and seven metres high washing up to a mile inland, devastating the southern coastlines and in some cases destroying entire villages. Tonga, too, was hit.

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