The December 17, 2017, online publication of the Zimeye featured an article headlined “BREAKING NEWS – Drama As Another Gonyet Catches Fire, Driver Escapes Live Flames.” https://www.zimeye.net/breaking-news-another-gonyet-catches-fire/
I find this not only absurd but very disturbing. How would one call an inferno that almost killed a person, dramatic? Notwithstanding that valuable asset were lost in the fire, has the hunger of ‘juicy’ stories turned to this?
I would not see anything dramatic about someone trying to save his own life and a few belongings that he can manage to grab, while grown man look upon and take videos, and others take the videos to parade them in their drama circus. The general flow of the mentioned article is even more disturbing and dramatic than the actual event.
Even though the above article is populated by not so meaningful statements that do not add value, it devoid of actual data and structure that should be employed when reporting such “news.” For the video I have no comment. The story has 9 sentences, I will pass through all of them below:
“A truck belonging to the JJ Zambia business went up in flames yesterday afternoon.” This ladies and gentlemen, is an introduction to “Breaking News?” We are not told where, how, or why. The when part says, yesterday. When was yesterday? If one reads this article next weekend will this still have happened ‘yesterday?’
“The accident happened at around 4 pm at just before the Headlands urban centre.” Oh, 4 pm at just before Headlands? Really? Who edits these stories? It’s not a race, take time to revise what you write as well.
“The gonyet was coming from Mozambique and driving towards Zambia past Headlands.” Gonyet again? Coming from Mozambique and … driving? Towards Zambia past headlands. This ‘gonyet’ must have been high-tech to “drive” from Mozambique towards Zambia.
“The driver was carrying 30 tonnes of fertilizer, taking it to Zambia.” And now, introducing the driver. Was this driver carrying 30 tonnes of fertilizer? That is even scary to imagine already. Whatever happened to a truck and a trailer loaded with 30 tonnes on fertilizer.
The writer now confesses that actually, the driver was taking the fertilizer to Zambia. The previous statement had highlighted that the ‘gonyet’ was on its way (driving) “towards” Zambia of which towards can mean a lot of places, e.g. Chinhoyi, Karoi, Hurungwe or even Harare.
“Some of the fertilizer was burnt up while villagers looted the rest.” Some? Maybe say something about the value of damages and loss? or perhaps not, it’s not essential. “The villagers had an early Christmas,” a source told ZimEye.com Sunday morning. And finally, “a source”. Oh, wait, which Sunday morning?
Do you mean yesterday morning? The following sentence states that the “video footage being streamed by ZimEye.com.” Wait a minute; this incident happened at 4 pm on a day called yesterday and was streamed by Zimeye, who could only get a source to comment on a Sunday morning?
“The driver can be seen in video footage being streamed by ZimEye.com struggling to come out of the vehicle.” Proudly being streamed by ZimEye.com. My poor imagination is showing me ZimEye.com streaming video footage at 4 pm on a “yesterday”, and only manages to get “a source” on a Sunday morning.
“People passing then rush towards the truck and start shouting: Mudara iwe buda umo.” He struggles for a while but later on manages to escape.” Aaaand in conclusion… The end. Yes, that was drama.
Do we know what caused the accident? Was it the driver’s negligence or a mechanical fault on the truck? Or maybe potholes or livestock that distracted the driver? Drivers, motorists, road workers, people who live in the vicinity all need to know this information, please.
It goes without saying that it is useful to report the chronology of events to create an accurate picture of what has happened. In this respect, reporters could have interviewed eyewitnesses and relief workers about what caused the incident, how and when it began etc.
Still, one must always remember and be aware that people may be in shock or scared or may have survived a trauma or injured so journalists must be sensitive and respectful during interviews and reporting. But at the same time, just because a story has to have a source, one cannot think of a statement and attribute it to “a source.”
Also, when a disaster such as this happens, the most important story that journalists can tell their audiences will be about safety and describe what has happened, where exactly, how and why in a way that any audiences will understand.
After the initial breaking-news phase of a disaster, journalists can focus on more detailed reporting about whether the accident could have been prevented or if anything can be learnt from the incident to avoid similar life-threatening events from happening as well.
On a side note, which will also be the main focus of my future post, if the person who took the video above is indeed a journalist, I commend him for not actively getting involved. Journalists are bystanders to or observers of the world around them, often witnessing people in even greater predicaments and distress.
The question is, when should journalists get involved and when they shouldn’t. In this profession, one may not intervene in situations in which one might endanger life, including their own.
One also needs to understand that holding the camera or recording what you hear and see may actually be the most effective way of intervening. However, one can only imagine how the journalist could have felt had the driver not escaped.
I will leave this for thought. Kevin Carter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a starving Sudanese girl child and a vulture in the background. (picture not inserted in this article).
When this photograph that captured the distress of the Sudanese famine was published in the New York Times on March 26, 1993, the audiences’ reaction was great and not all positive. Some people said that Kevin Carter, the photojournalist who took this photo, was inhumane, that he should have dropped his camera to run to the little girl’s aid.
A few months later, the controversy only grew when he won the Pulitzer Prize for the same photo. Towards the end of July 1994, he was dead. Four months after being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography, Carter committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning on July 27, 1994, at age 33.