Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Backpack journalism in North Korea

With reference to the two U.S. journalists in North Korean custody, a fellow female journalist writing in the Detroit Times comments:

Current TV’s "backpack" journalism method outfits reporters with portable, easy-to-use technology that allows movement through dangerous territory.

While guts, passion, tenacity and perseverance are desirable traits, especially in journalism, there is such a thing as having too much ambition, especially as idealistic, competitive young women out to get to the best story and put their mark on the world.

Somebody above them, a mentor or more seasoned journalist, should have weighed the risks involved in being anywhere near the terribly volatile North Korean soil, and too, the lack of safeguards applied by their employer, Current TV.

While nothing excuses the complete sham of the North Korean closed-door trial and the utterly cruel sentence, you can't help but wonder about the journalists' ill-conceived plan. In a Current TV promotional video, Laura Ling described her mission as investigating the "big issues really affecting our world. "We're trying to push the envelope here," Laura Ling said on camera, "and stay out in front of events, rather than regurgitate news headlines."

Laura Ling, 36, was said to be following in the footsteps of her celebrity older sister Lisa Ling. In an eerie precedent now three years old, many wonder how Ling’s elder sister and a Nepalese medical mission she teamed up with could justify pretending she was a humanitarian aid worker so that she could sneak into the country and make a 2006 National Geographic documentary.

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