Not happy, John

[This is a response to John Izzard’s "Blood News". John Izzard’s reply, “No, Sally, NO!” is here… And Sally Sara’s response, "Doing our job" is here…] 

I wish to reject comments made by John Izzard in his article, "Blood News", on Quadrant Online on 31 October 2010.
Mr Izzard implied I exploited flood victims and provided insufficient coverage of the magnitude of the floods and those who were doing their best to fight it.

Others, like certain TV journalists, like to get in there, and whip up potent images of death & destruction, or exploit some poor soul or their families. Take the ABC’s Sally Sara, who, when sent to cover an event, say like the recent one in Pakistan, always seems to manage to winkle out some poor sodding family or child to expose on ABC News, rather that cover the actual details of the magnitude of the flood itself, and those who are doing their best to fight it. Her stint in Africa seemed to celebrate the morbid.

However, Mr Izzard, failed to check the facts. In addition to reporting on families displaced by the flood waters, the extensive coverage also showed the scale and complexity of the biggest natural disaster in Pakistan’s history.  Ethical and responsible journalism includes giving a voice to people affected by catastrophes. 

  • ABC cameraman Wayne McAllister and I covered the Pakistan floods for more than 20 days and produced more than 50 stories ranging from brief radio reports, to TV news stories and radio current affairs.
  • We covered the magnitude of the humanitarian disaster from several locations in Punjab, the capital Islamabad and the worst affected province of Sindh.
  • The issues featured included the destruction of infrastructure, the threat of disease, the severe lack of humanitarian aid, the high levels of pre-existing malnutrition in Sindh province, the politicization of aid, threats by terrorist groups, the provision of aid by Islamic charities, the absence of President Asif Ali Zardari during the first part of the crisis, the challenges facing rescue teams trying to reach isolated areas and fears of civil unrest due to food shortages.
  • We interviewed numerous groups and individuals involved in the flood relief effort of including World Health Organisation, the United Nations World Food Program, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Multan Civil Defence, the Pakistani government, Army and Air Force.
  • Several of the charities publicly praised the quality and professionalism of our coverage, including Save The Children spokesman Ian Woolverton  and UNICEF Australia’s chief, Norman Gillespie.
  • In direct response to our coverage, the ABC Pakistan Relief Appeal raised more than $3.5 million.  The first million dollars was used to provide assistance to 272,000 malnourished children in the flood zone.  Contrary to Mr Izzard’s assertion of exploitation, the coverage helped to provide much needed assistance.
  • The Board of the ABC formally commended our coverage.
  • Our coverage of the Pakistan floods won the Best Television News Report at this year’s United Nation’s Media Peace Awards.  It has also been nominated for Best Television News Reporting and commended in the International Journalism category at this year’s Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism.

Mr Izzard’s allegations of ‘whipping up potent images of death and destruction’ , ‘exploiting some poor soul or family’ reflect on his poor understanding of the horrific reality of the disaster, not on the quality of my reporting.
His poorly researched article, fell short of the fine traditions of your much-admired publication.
I have included links to a selection of stories [see below].  
Sally Sara is the South Asia Correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

























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