Exploitative Journalism – Fight Back!

UPDATE 01.02.12 – Finding My Tribe has published a new post on Graham Bowley’s follow up. Warning, may contain snark:

Look, I am not a journalist, which means apparently I am a moron.

UPDATE: 20.01.12 – I received the following response 7 days after sending my email of complaint:

Thanks for your message about Graham Bowley’s coverage of Sahar Gul, the young Afghan girl. I am concerned about the girl’s privacy as well and have raised the question with the Foreign Desk. I do concur that news organizations should be careful to respect the privacy of crime victims. This is a case where, I believe, the benefits of doing a story were outweighed by the potential harm to the girl.
Art Brisbane
public editor

I want to add my voice in support of a post over on Finding My Tribe which calls out Graham Bowley of the New York Times for indulging in some sickeningly exploitative journalism.

The author highlighted a blog post from Bowley describing his pursuit of an interview with an extremely traumatised young women, Sahar Gul, who was ruthlessly abused by her male relatives when she refused to engage in the sex industry. She is 15.

It is a hideously tragic story and one that had already been covered extensively by the time Bowley went to find her. He was barred from seeing her at the hospital because of the extent of her psychological trauma. On hearing that AP had managed to get an interview with her he returned to the hospital because ‘the story was too important’, pushed past the doctors who had denied him access and preceded to conduct a stultified interview with a deeply damaged young women. It’s a hideous story of journalistic pride getting in the way of ethics and of a foreign journalist getting his way despite the protestations of local experts.

The Finding My Tribe the author condemns Bowley,

You’re what’s wrong with journalism, especially journalism here. You’re recycling a story, a Kabul story, and doing so at someone else’s expense. So few here are reporting on anything new anymore, or bothering to cover stories with any depth. And I know it’s not just here, and it’s not just you. Regardless, I could have written that same story, and I’m not a journalist — I’m just some dude with a blog.

Shotgun Shack also responded to the post pointing out that,

It’s one thing if a person makes a conscious and willing choice to become a symbol or a spokesperson. It’s entirely another thing if someone else decides that a person who survived something terrible should be a symbol or spokesperson about an issue, without the agreement or informed consent of that person.

Two ways to fight back

  • Send an email: Wronging Rights drafted a letter of outrage for people to send to the public editor at NY Times which I sent. I encourage you to send it and to tell everyone you know to do the same.
  • Spread the word: Tweet about it, post it on Facebook, stumble it. It is already on reddit here: please upvote it to try and get as many people as possible to complain about this.

We have to let the NY Times know that exploiting traumatised teenagers isn’t what we want their journalists to do.


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