Monday, October 30, 2006

Credit Where It's Due

I have been known to beat up on New Zealand journalism from time to time. Truth is, about three quarters of the reporting and feature writing in New Zealand newspapers and magazines isn't very good or interesting, and about three quarters of what's good or interesting is reprinted from international publications (and the less said about most television reporting, the better).

It's not all bad. The Sunday Star Times, in particular, lurches from the gutter-dwelling abysmal to the occasionally quite good, with quality normally in inverse proportion to the trendiness of the topic. Michael Field, who writes mainly for the Dominion Post, does some sterling work, reporting on cultural, political and environmental issues from around the Pacific Islands. It's the sort of roving commission I'd love to have, only in Latin America (I have faith that The Guardian will eventually see the light and offer me the role).

On that note, I ought to offer plaudits to Ruth Laugesen (with some help from Ruth Hill) for the piece in yesterday's SST on female genital mutilation in the New Zealand Somali community. It's a difficult, loaded issue, but it was treated with some balance and sensitivity.

It was actually the kind of piece that lent itself to the "he said; she said" style of reporting (though in this case it was really "she said; she said"), as too much authorial input could easily have seemed heavy handed. But letting people tell their own story doesn't mean you have to demonstrate no opinion on a matter; by the selection and ordering of quotations you can still put a point of view across.

So overall it was reasonably well done, and I learnt something, which is certainly not the case with all feature articles. The pity was that no one managed to speak directly with any of the women who reported supporting the (FGM) practice. I couldn't help thinking that had it been a British journalist (i.e. in The Guardian or similar), she would have been brave enough to probe from her personal perspective a little more, winkle out such an interview subject, and ask her the awkward questions.

Mind you, British papers would probably be able to put someone onto the task who is actually Somali, or at least an East African Muslim.

I wonder what other people who read the article thought.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I saw the article too and agree it was well written and informative reading. I certainly learnt something - but to really make an informed comment I would have to go back and read the article again and of course the paper has been recycled already.

PS. Love your new format and look for Bidsta, Simon.