On Wednesday, it will be one year since a 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti. And while there are a lot of things that can be criticized and should be learned from, I’m afraid that a lot of the criticism will fall short of the mark and instead will be of the “It’s not that difficult. You simply have to …”-kind. In most cases you can’t blame people for that kind of view, though I think you can blame journalists when they are falling into this trap – after all it is their job to try to understand issues.
Doing their homework
One team of journalists who have really made an effort is the team behind “Inside Disaster Haiti”, which will air as of Tuesday in Canada. They had already been in touch with the Canadian Red Cross for a whole year prior to the earthquake, wanting to film a response operation. When the earthquake happened they were able to deploy with some of the first emergency response units and they came back a few times afterwards to film the progress.
Serious game gives a glimpse behind the scenes
An offshoot of the film is the “serious game” Inside the Haiti earthquake where anybody can play the role of a survivor, a journalist or an aidworker. It’s done fairly simply: you get shown a scene and then have to pick one of multiple choices, which will influence how the rest of the story progresses. But since it is based on professional-grade documentary material, I think that it actually leaves quite an impression and can help people to get at least a glimpse of the decisions that need to be made at in an operation like this.
I have worked as a journalist for almost ten years and found that part quite realistic. As for the aidworker-scenario: in the beginning I was really upset because their protagonist is someone who spontaneously decides to go to Haiti with some random, donated goods and without any training or useful skills, i.e. exactly the kind of person that most big organizations don’t want to see on the ground. But they actually manage to take this lack of experience and include it as part of the scenario. Which is brilliant because, after all, the people playing the game will have no experience.
And while it isn’t trying to give you an in-depth perspective by any means, I still think that it might open some people’s eyes to the complexities of the work. So, all in all, a big “thumps up” from me:
Check it out and play “Inside disaster the Haiti earthquake”.