What’s it really like to report from a war zone? Work on an undercover investigation? Be a humanitarian photographer capturing images in the far corners of the earth to influence our hearts and minds? Here, you'll find out through captivating conversations delving into the personal stories of people who dedicate themselves to telling stories to drive impact, while at the same time exploring the ethical challenges they face. Hosted by Susannah Birkwood, international journalist and NGO storyteller.
8: Not enough NGOs consider paying story contributors - Laura Elizabeth Pohl, humanitarian photographer
39:12“A lot of us get into this work with NGOs because we want to make a difference but there are times when NGOs are actually doing more harm and they’re not living up to their standard of being humanitarian.” This episode features Laura Elizabeth Pohl, a humanitarian photographer, filmmaker, writer and editor from the US living in Cape Town, South Africa. Laura prides herself on producing stories about issues like immigration, agriculture, healthcare access and economic and social justice in an ethical way with care and respect for the dignity of the people featured. Her work for international NGOs has taken her to more than 20 countries. Laura was previously an entertainment journalist and interviewed celebrities including Britney Spears, and Mary J. Blige, and also worked as a Dow Jones business reporter in Korea, before she transitioned into photojournalism. The founder and co-editor of NGO Storytelling, a website to inform and inspire humanitarian storytellers, Laura also hosts her own podcast, Creative + Moneywise, where she interviews other photographers about their real-life money stories and career paths. In this episode, we consider this question: should the people featured in NGO stories be paid? We discuss the pros and cons of offering individuals compensation for sharing stories which are used by organisations to raise funds or advance their advocacy goals. We also hear Laura’s reflections on some of the unethical behaviour she’s witnessed when gathering stories in countries across the world, such as when she was sent to interview a struggling family in the DRC – who were receiving no support from the international nonprofit that selected them. This episode contains useful tips as to how NGOs and their storytellers can help the people featured in their communications to feel more valued. Useful links: Check out Laura’s website Check out Laura’s podcast, Creative + Moneywise Check out the NGO Storytelling blog Check out Laura’s Medium post, A call for ethical standards in nonprofit humanitarian photography Check out Oxfam's Ethical Content Guidelines Check out WaterAid's Ethical Image Policy Connect with Storytelling for Impact: Visit the website: www.storytellingforimpact.net Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/storytellingforimpact/ Follow Susannah Birkwood on Twitter: @Susannahbirkwoo Email: [email protected]
7: Going undercover always carries a risk – Ed Davey, environmental investigative journalist
48:06This episode features Ed Davey, the head of rainforest investigations at the international NGO Global Witness, where he leads a team dedicated to exposing the destruction of the world’s most important rainforests. In 2018 he helped reveal how the world’s top three commodity traders were embroiled in one of the biggest corruption cases of all time. Previously he spent eight years specialising in undercover journalism at the BBC where his work was featured on programmes such as Panorama, Newsnight, and the national News at Six, as well as writing for publications including the New Statesman and the Mail on Sunday. At 38, he’s also the author of three novels – Foretold by Thunder, The Napoleon Complex and The Killing Gene – published under the name EM Davey. He has visited more than 60 countries and African countries feature in all his novels. In this episode, we chat about what it’s like to work in investigative journalism for an NGO, getting the low-down on how Global Witness carries out its campaigns focused on complex international corruption and environmental crime, and how the job differs to working for a media outlet. We also hear eye-opening stories from Ed’s career as a journalist going undercover to expose everything from unscrupulous building firms to unethical fertility clinics, and learn about his astonishing trip to Benin, West Africa, to make a BBC documentary about voodoo sorcery after a friend told him he’d seen a voodoo priest cut off his wife’s head and then reattach it… 1:32 becoming a published author 6:41 sharing a name with a famous politician 8:37 transitioning from the BBC to campaigning journalism 12:50 calling on companies to take action on deforestation 15:33 getting decision-makers to take action on findings 17:30 the inside track on Global Witness investigations 21:00 justifying long-haul flights as an environmental campaigner 24:18 going undercover 28:12 Ed’s most impactful investigation 30:07 evaluating the impact of investigations 35:47 risks in undercover operations 39:24 voodoo in Benin 44:44 tips for getting into campaigning journalism Useful links: Check out Ed’s website Check out Ed’s novels Check out this Global Witness anti-corruption investigation Ed worked on Check out Ed’s BBC World Service documentary on voodoo sorcery in Benin Check out this BBC undercover investigation into building test centres Ed worked on Check out Ed’s BBC undercover investigation into immigrant working conditions Connect with Storytelling for Impact: Visit the website: www.storytellingforimpact.net Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/storytellingforimpact/ Follow Susannah Birkwood on Twitter: @Susannahbirkwoo Email: [email protected]
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6: So much NGO language reinforces stereotypes – Sarika Bansal, ethical language expert
41:32This episode features Sarika Bansal, a journalist and author based in Nairobi, Kenya who was the was the founder and editor in chief of BRIGHT magazine. Together, we discuss Sarika’s biggest bugbears when it comes to language use in the international NGO sector, scrutinising words and phrases such as "giving voice to the voiceless," “capacity building," “third world,” and “beneficiaries”. We also get her top tips on how to language that empowers contributors and upholds their dignity, as well as delving into the moral quandary that is voluntourism and asking: Is there an ethical way for a young, privileged person to spend time in a poorer community?
5: Do no harm also applies to journalism – Thin Lei Win, humanitarian correspondent
55:24This episode features Thin Lei Win, an award-winning Burmese climate change, food security and humanitarian correspondent living in Italy. We discuss whether the foreign correspondent model is due a reckoning following a recent reporting trip by CNN International to Myanmar to cover the country’s recent military coup. The media outlet was widely criticised for the trip, with many accusing it of downplaying the role played by local journalists and for causing harm as 11 local sources were arrested after speaking to CNN’s reporter.
4: There is a price you pay as a foreign correspondent - Iain Overton, writer and campaigner
51:34This episode features Iain Overton, a multi-award-winning investigative journalist based in the UK who has worked in over 80 countries around the world unearthing hard truths about human rights and gun violence. We talk with Iain about the merits of journalism for someone who wants to use their career to do as much good as they can in the world; the emotional sacrifices Iain made through his work reporting human rights abuses; and what it was like to be detained by terrorist group Hezbollah during a reporting trip to Lebanon.
3: I did things I wouldn’t do now - Rachel Erskine, ethical storytelling expert
37:39Rachel Erskine, an ethical storytelling expert who works for Amref Health Africa in the UK, shares her thoughts on how aid agencies and NGOs can make amends for the harm past approaches to storytelling may have caused to communities.
2: We mustn't exploit communities – Jason Houston, conservation photographer
46:42Jason Houston, a social and environmental photographer who works with clients including the New York Times, shares his insights on participatory photography and respecting the needs of the communities he photographs.