[this post has updates below]
JOURNOS IN NORTH KOREA: OBJECTIONS TO OBJECTIVITY
The BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and his team were sent home from North Korea this week, and the broadcaster has remained mum—probably because they want to keep their reporters who remain there safe. Still, this piece from The New Yorker does a great job outlining how the country invited Western journalists to report on the gathering of the Workers’ Party Congress—the first of its kind in decades.
As you might’ve predicted, objective reporting led to that one BBC reporting team being detained, held for 8 hours and ultimately expelled.
Turns out the journalists were bit players in a comedy-drama scripted by North Korean event planners, who wanted everyone to look upon the Hermit Kingdom and its Dear Leader with the same googly eyes that they do.
In a predictable plot twist, the actors went off-script.
Wingfield-Hayes and his crew, who had been following a delegation of Nobel laureates touring the country in advance of its first Workers’ Party Congress in decades, had made the critical error of reporting what they actually saw. During a visit to the Pyongyang Children’s Hospital, the BBC correspondent quoted a delegate observing that that the purported patients look like perfectly healthy children and that the adults present were not doctors. “Everything we see looks like a setup,” Wingfield-Hayes concluded on camera.
There’s a push-pull here. When I go to a foreign country—either as journalist or visitor—I’m always respectful of customs, laws and norms. We can’t take our exact culture with us and expect those same comforts and freedoms where they don’t exist. Many if not all of those invited journalists probably hew to a similar line.
The squeaky-clean scenes that North Korea presented, though, buried the needle on the bullshit meter, and as journalists it’s their job and core responsibility to call out that non-reality. (I wish our media would do the same with politicians, but I digress.) Much like waving a half-eaten chicken wing in front of a dog, it’s impossible to resist.
Journalists are groomed to question, to wonder aloud, to challenge. And that central characteristic caused a predictable disruption to an insular country that can’t handle any truth that veers off a predetermined, one-way storyline.
For every gesture of goodwill made by Kim jong Un there are 15 acts of aggression. And many if not all are to get attention—including this one.
I reached out to Wingfield-Hayes’ producer and I’ll let you know what I hear back.
Jon Stewart sat down with David Axelrod and many, many quotables emerge. It’s a rather long interview but it’s delicious all the way through. Apparently Stewart is coming to HBO in time to report on this reality-show election.
“I’m in the company of heroes.” Captain Adam Bugden, one of the lead firefighters of the Fort McMurray blaze that has decimated a large swath of Alberta, Canada, had to deal with the stress of his own family being evacuated while fighting the fire himself.
Have a look at his reaction when the presenter told him that people saw him as a hero. I marked it right when she asked him about how it felt. A person who feels his feelings for a broad audience is even more a hero than we thought.
Twenty-two years, 23 seconds. No that’s not the theme song to Rent 2—it’s an important, albeit a bit boring, milestone on the teevee.
For the first time in 22 seasons, Dancing with the Stars had a brief flirtation with modernity as two same-sex couples danced a tango for the first time on ABC. The whole interlude lasted 23 seconds, but still, progress right?
Although much of the coverage has been flowery (“historic!” “risky!”), Citabria Ozzuna (pictured, left), a longtime same-gender dancer, competitor, teacher and advocate (full disclosure: also my first cousin), isn’t so impressed.
“I’m happy they gave us a nod, but that’s pretty much all it was,” she says. “Just when it looked like things might get interesting, they went back to the women. Hopefully it’s a start that will lead to something that feels more full and real.”
Also, the DWTS number is not without a heavy dose of irony—the tango originated as a male-only dance in the working-class port neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. For DWTS 22 seasons on, progress looks more like a boomerang than a bended arc. (With a big h/t to Jim Hackler, you can read more about this history here.)
Despite running some of the gayest shows on TV—hello: Modern Family, Desperate Housewives—ABC has adamantly banned same-sex dancing on DWTS for, presumably, the perceived offense it would cause its suburban-housewives viewer base. Dance is one of the most expressive art forms and yet, for some reason, it’s always been ixnay on same-gender performances.
Ozzuna tells me that they just held this year’s April Follies, the largest and longest running North American same-gender dancesport competition. So, as DWTS explores this medium for the first time, remember: it’s already been going on around them for decades.
Sustainable American teamed up with musician and environmental champion Jack Johnson to do a critically important video on the importance of composting. I’ve droned on about this for eons on my Pizza for Good blog; 40% of our food is thrown away. That is an unsustainable amount of waste that we need to pair down.
After he saw how much is wasted at his concerts, he started going green, and required venues to adhere to strict recycling efforts.
Johnson carries his environmental messages on tour. Early in his career he became concerned with the enormous impact concerts have on the environment. So he started making changes, like running tour vehicles on biodiesel and making refillable water bottle stations available to fans. He has compost bins on tour buses and requires the venues he plays to cooperate with an environmentally responsible rider. Sometimes the changes he requests become permanent policies at venues.
Which is also why I compost at the house in Atlanta and divert as much food waste as I can to compost bins in back. Read more about the collaboration here.
UPDATE: In other green news, this animated gif tells the story of Climate Change the best of anything so far (h/t Rob O’Connor):
The state of Georgia ranks dead last in arts funding per resident, which is an abomination on many levels—not the least of which is that Atlanta has an incredibly vibrant arts scene and needs regularly funded nurturing of young talent.
So my heart got super happy when I saw my twitter buddy Scott Grimes (ER, American Dad) heading to Dracut, Mass., with singing partner Bob Guiney to raise money for the Dracut school system’s performing-arts programs. That’s exactly the type of event that would work elsewhere; we need similar benefits in the Atlanta metro and around the state to raise money specifically for arts cultivation and education programs.
Have a listen to RadioBDC’s interview with Scott and Bob about the importance of school-arts programs, and the history of Guiney & Grimes:
That type of can-do attitude would help greatly in Georgia because dinguses in state our government don’t see the importance of inspiring future creators.
To that point, have a look at “I’m Goin’ Home” performed at City Winery in New York City. Scott wrote the song with Alan Doyle after the Boston Marathon bombing. As you’ll see in the intro, he brought the idea to Alan and—in the true spirit of creative collaboration—it became a truly beautiful tune.
That’s it from me this week Cranker Darlings… We’ll see you right back here next Thursday at 2 p.m.
Will Pollock is an Atlanta-based freelance multimedia journalist and author of two books (Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way. Sign up for the mailing list, follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—and check out the book links below.
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