Home » Foreign correspondents
Category Archives: Foreign correspondents
Journalists, especially foreign ones are funny creatures. Often you can hear them decry the low level of English being used in their local host countries. Redundancies are one of the biggest sins. Yet when these journalists are forced into roles of responsibility beyond their usual journalistic duties they seem to revert, like all of us into bureaucrat-ese.
So it is with some amusement that Unspun read the agenda for the Annual General Meeting of the august Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club:
AGENDA FOR JFCC ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING, DECEMBER 8, 2012
1. An accountability report by JFCC President Joe Cochrane.
2. An accountability report by Treasurer Zubaidah NH, which shall include the previous year’s financial accounts.
3. Executive Committee proposals.
4. Member proposals.
5. The election of the new Executive Committee for 2013.
6. Any other business.
Any member who wishes to submit a proposal may do so provided it is submitted at least one week prior to the meeting.
“Any other business” is a discussion forum of ideas not submitted in formal proposals. No vote may be taken on these items.
“Accountability report”? What is a report, theoretically, if not an exercise in accountability? Would not a mere “report” suffice? Would attaching an “accountable” in front of the report help spin things to make them seem more accountable, open and transparent? Or make them seem like they doth protesth too much?
Hmmm. Unspun is probably splitting hairs and being pedantic, but these are foreign journalists who are supposed to be setting a good example for the rest of us in using the International Language (until Chinese replaces it a few years down the line).
Was Reuters right in dismissing its Indonesian bureau chief David Fox for making off-color jokes about pubic hair and women or have they gone overboard on the PC Bandwagon?
There have been some rather oblique reports about the dismissal (here and here) but they, as Pisani in the posting below says, have been pussyfooting around the issue. So here’s her understanding and opinions about Reuters, David Fox and the Dismissal-That-Should-Not-Be Spoken-Of.
Regular readers know that I have little time for the uber-correctness that tries to wipe sex out of our daily loves and lives. But I am more outraged than usual at the price paid by journalist David Fox, one of the best conflict correspondents in the business, for an off-colour remark made in what he thought was a private chat. Reuters new bosses fired him, with no right of appeal.
I used to be proud to have worked for Reuters. It was an organisation of clever, brave people dedicated to reporting the truth in often difficult situations. I continue to be proud to have spent 10 years living with David Fox. His determination to give a voice to the men, women and children who are the pawns in conflicts not of their own making definitely took a toll on our marriage. I learned to recognise the lock-down mood that followed yet another assignment in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Iraq, Albania, Afghanistan. I laughed at the sick jokes that go with the daily reporting of incomprehensible grimness. As anyone who has worked as a surgeon, doctor, cop, undertaker or soldier knows (and as comments on Reuters’ imperious behaviour reflect) gallows humour helps you cope with shitty situations. I work on a sexually transmitted infection that has killed 30 million people; I can do a tasteless joke or two of my own. But along with the wisecracks came top quality journalism. I never failed to be moved by the stories David filed for an employer increasingly short of brave people who could be dropped in to a disaster area with equipment charged, functional, and ready to file. Read his coverage of the refugee crisis in Zaire and try not to weep.
It is an interesting intellectual exercise to think how Reuters would treat the story if it involved another business or organization. They would have demanded that all sides speak up so that the truth can be revealed. Yet in this instance Reuters have been tight lipped. Amazing how proponents of openness and transparency clamp up when the shoe is in the other foot.
For the record Unspun’s acquired what apears to be the actual exchange between Fox and Marshall than earned Fox the sack and Marshall a reprimand.
2:47:42 AM Asia_top_story_2 Andrew Marshall thomsonreuters.com:
So how is the radiation situation mate? Has your hair been falling out?
2:50:16 AM Asia_top_story_2 David Fox thomsonreuters.com:
Lets hope it affects all those cute jap girls who do have a strange tendency to grow their pubes …
Bear in mind that Fox apparently offered to apologize to all in Reuters’ chat room who were aparty to the exchange (see MP Nunan posting in the Huffington Post ). So did Reuters go overboard in being PC or were they right in sacking Fox?
The composite picture from all these reports is rather confusing as,there is not enough information to see how the punishment fitted the “crime. Unspun’s been told, however, that the actual conversation on the chat room involved Japanese women, not the best thing to talk about at anytime and certainly not in a chat room just after the Japan earthquake.
Opens up the whole issue of what’s acceptable newsroom banter these days, especially if you’re in a public chat room.
Moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.
—The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
To those journalists who have been there and done it, usually with typewriters when they began, the journalists of today seem a strange breed. They may seem urbane, overeducated and over self-appreciated although in their perception of their selves they may look like the Masters of the New Universe.
So its refreshing to look forward to old Asia and Indonesia hand John McBeth’s book Reporter: Forty Years Covering Asia that will be launched in Indonesia on March 8. John is one of those journalists that tell it like it is, so the book’s bound to be interesting, whether you agree or disagree with him. Unspun’s given a foretaste of what’s to come ( see When men were men, journos were reporters and we all had more hair) but below is an excerpt from John’s book in The Asia Sentinel:
A Veteran Journalist’s View of Today’s World
Written by John McBeth
TUESDAY, 01 MARCH 2011
And it isn’t encouraging
This is an excerpt from Reporter: Forty Years Covering Asia (Talisman Publishers, hardback, 384 pp., S$42) by John McBeth, who among other things spent a quarter-century as
the longest-serving correspondent for the now-defunct Far Eastern Economic Review. McBeth looks with trepidation at how standards have fallen in today’s world of journalism. The book is available in local bookshops.…While this book may necessarily be a memoir, I would like to think it is more a reflection of the lives of a generation of journalists who came to Asia on a wing and a prayer – and in my case by ship – and stayed on as fascinated witnesses to a region going through historic political and economic change. We all have a story to tell. We have also had a lot of great times that will never be repeated.
Most foreign journalists who come to Asia today already work for the wire services or established publications, even if some are a shadow of what they once were. They are often married, sometimes with kids. They have houses, cars, offices and assistants as part of the package. They are here today and gone tomorrow, ticking off another box on their rise up the promotional ladder.
It is that which sets them apart from those of us who have lived the story and made Asia our home. In many cases, it happened more by accident than design. The quarter century I spent on the Far Eastern Economic Review, longer than any other correspondent, only reinforced that process because of the opportunities it presented to plumb the depths of each and every story.