Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Third Party/First Party reporting and media

At work yesterday, I accompanied my boss Pauline to a symposium at The Junction. It was organized by doctorate students at Magee. The topic was 'Contested Spaces: From Third Party To First.' In essence, it was about mediators and documentary makers, and about bias in addressing issues in Northern Ireland. They tried to address whether or not there is such thing as an unbiased third party, and what ethics and responsibilities an intermediary in the conflict has.

One of the speakers does consulting work at the Peace and Reconciliation Group, where one of our professors works. The main thrust of his argument was that there's a difference between being fair and being unbiased. He says that he freely admits to having biases about the conflict(s) in Northern Ireland. But he says thay what matters isn't what he believes, but how he behaves. By being a fair and balanced mediator, he's built himself a reputation as someone who can set his own biases aside when it comes to helping people work out problems.

Two of the other speakers were documentary makers. They discussed the difficulties present in trying to tell the truth while also trying to satisfy funders, most of whom want something sensational they can sell on the air. The last was the director of a nonprofit called Children in Crossfire. He's been the subject of newsmedia and documentaries since he was ten, when he was blinded by a rubber bullet on his way home from school. He discussed using the media, and also the difficulties he's had with getting the media to respect his privacy and his wishes about what does and does not air.

Overall it was quite an interesting day. Plus, they gave us free lunch, and you just can't beat free lunch.

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