Inside Out – March 07

When Gary Knight and Rod Nordland appeared at the Frontline Club in February, they were just back from a Newsweek assignment in Darfur. Gary’s pictures and Rod’s narrative reminded us what a humanitarian crisis Darfur remains and how the situation continues to deteriorate while the world is not watching.

In fact, Knight and Nordland represented 100 percent of the world’s journalists covering the story when they were there. That’s right: as far as they could determine, they were the only recognisable journalists there reporting. How can this be? In a world of wealthy and powerful 24-hour news channels and networks, in a media world of committed documentary-makers, in a world of hungry freelancers, more than 2 million displaced people living in refugee camps are getting virtually no coverage.

Newsweek magazine deserves credit for bankrolling what was an expensive and time-consuming assignment. And it devoted four pages in both its domestic and international editions to the story. Knight and Nordland proved what tenacious and resourceful journalism is all about by overcoming all the obstacles to getting to the Darfur story. How they accomplished this and what they found is compelling listening and viewing on the Frontline video recording of their presentation. (

It’s worth a reminder that the tragedy unfolds out of view while we’re being force-fed the media gluttony of Shilpa and Big Brother, Anna Nichole Smith, and Britney Spears.

For those who do take the risks to get to the Darfur and witness what is a complicated story now that the rebel groups are so badly divided themselves, there’s no guarantee that their stories will be aired or published.

Knight despairs about the celebrity-driven media market in Britain. Along with Mort Rosenblum and Simba Gill he plans to introduce a new serious quarterly international news magazine called Dispatches later this year that will feature reportage and photography from the sharp edge of journalism.

If mainstream journalism isn’t interested in Darfur – apart from admirable journalist-commentators such as the New York Times‘s Nicholas Kristof – is there anything that can be done to support freelancers who can’t afford to travel to Khartoum or N’Djamena and find a way to get in? What will it take to underwrite more independent filmmakers such as Phillip Cox, who first showed us the unfolding tragedy more than three years ago?

This is where the Frontline Club could make a difference. All it needs is to establish a fund for the coverage of humanitarian crises. A survey carried out by the Reuters Foundation and the Fritz Institute several years ago found that journalists, especially those living outside North America, would accept money from an “independent” source. Who is independent and what funders expect from their investment will always be an issue. But if the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation or any other reputable foundation wants to empower the Frontline Club to ensure that crises on the scale of Darfur don’t go uncovered, then surely the lesser evil is informing the world.