Ethics in Journalism – Producing videos that don’t endanger local people.

I used to enjoy watching Ian Wright on Globe Trekker. He was always enthusiastic about the locations he visited and respectful to the people he met along the way.

There is one telling line Ian says in the video above, ‘We don’t stitch people up’

I think it is important as a travel video producer to not be too critical and sensationalist with regard to the countries one visits. I think it is also important to try and avoid comparisons between one’s own country and the countries one visits.
Previously we relied on television stations to give us our news of the world. Now anyone can be a citizen reporter, giving their slant on the countries they visit. I’m always aware that in some countries, local people can get in trouble with local authorities, or victimised by their own people for things they say on camera. And I always make people aware of the possible repercussions of discussing any negative aspects of their own country. The last thing I want as a travel video producer is to have someone’s death or imprisonment occur because of something they say to me.

I was recently criticised in many comments, mainly from American’s, about my North Korea video. Before visiting North Korea I read a lot of books about recent events such as the 1990’s famine and the prison camps. I think anyone can watch the footage and see from the lack of cars and lack of farm machinery, that North Korea is not exactly booming! It seems that because I didn’t criticise the North Korean government, and only reported on what I saw, I was some how encouraging the dictatorship! The reality was, I was well aware that if I did a beat up story, criticising the government, based on 2nd hand information, people I’d met in Korea, could suffer the repercussions. I went in there telling people I would do a story on the fledgling tourism industry, and that is what I did!

I’ve read a bit about war correspondents, I find it fascinating that people risk their own lives to bring us such stories. It seems their biggest disappointment is that despite showing the world the atrocity of war, their reporting generally has little effect in bringing about change. Despite the lessons of the past, wars still happen!

So I think it is important for anyone wishing to produce travel videos to be well aware that there stories can lead to problems for local people, even if it just means online bullying! I interviewed a young man recently about outsourcing to the Philippines. I felt it was important to mention corruption. Even though Darby wasn’t really qualified to answer the question, and skilfully avoided so, he was attacked in the comments as unpatriotic by faceless pinoys! I don’t think there could be anymore more proud of their homeland than Darby, and he wasn’t expecting a backlash for what was essentially a harmless interview.

There are 25 hours of video uploaded to youtube every minute. That works out to be 600+ new videos. The competition to get found is intense and there is the temptation to sensationalise stories in order to capture eyeballs. I think it is important to practise some ethics in one’s work and to be honest in your dealings with local people.

I’ve managed to travel the world interviewing local people where ever I go, many who have never been in front of a camera before, many speaking in their 2nd language!

And a lot of this rests on my reputation, people can watch my videos and understand I am not out to make people look like fools, or do a beat up on their country. One can be honest about a countries problems without being sensationalist. And by doing things this way, people are more likely to open up to you and show you the best their countries have to offer, and also be honest in discussing any problems.

The video below represents a meeting of old and new journalism, New York Times vs Vice. David Carr is crushing in his regard for the shock tactics of ‘new journalism’ but it does remind one that one must at least try and be impartial in how one presents stories.

About Mark Shea

Mark Shea is a video producer and trainer and specializes in documentary and travel/tourism related content. His youtube channel is one of youtube’s most successful travel partner channels.
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