Arizona vigil for Laura Ling and Euna Lee opens larger question

If civic journalism is hard to accept, how about traditional journalism?

As a writer I felt compelled to stop by a favorite hangout in Tempe, Arizona last week for the vigil for Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Who are they? Two journalists facing a 12-year sentence in North Korea –whose plight was buried by media obsession with the gloved one.

There were similar vigils in San Francisco, Sacramento, Washington and Paris. The goal was to collect one million signatures to petition their release. I was somewhat disappointed in the turnout.

The goal was to collect one million signatures to petition their release. I was somewhat disappointed in the turnout.

Other than the vigil here, there were vigils in San Francisco, Sacramento, Washington and Paris.

But beyond their plight, as the attack on journalists goes on, it begs a larger question: do citizens really care if the media is muzzled, punished, expelled? Whenever I speak to people about this, I get the feeling that the answer is sadly, no. Or (long pause) ‘maybe.’

It amazes me how many enthuse over how anyone with a Twitter account or camera phone could report on a breaking event, but give scant attention to others who stand in front of the line, taking the hits. Maybe it’s because we still see the media in a “Them” vs “Us” dichotomy.

You want to see real blur? The blur between the Pro (professional) and the Am (amateur) is happening before our eyes. Take a look at what a news station in the Philippines is doing. ABS-CBN is holding a series of workshops on citizen journalism that will arm Filipinos with the knowledge and skills to report on events and incidents concerning the 2010 elections. Already 13,000 Filipinos have signed up.

Here’s another eye-opener. A list of countries ranked by degrees of media freedom. Only 70 countries are ranked ‘Free’ while 61 are ‘Partly Free’ and 64 are ‘Not Free.’ Check the list here. It’s an eye-opener for many here because freedom of the press, something we take for granted, is not exactly universal, and varies in degree.

  • Egypt, for instance is ‘partly free’
  • Sri Lanka is ‘not free’ –no different from the likes of North Korea, and Saudi Arabia
  • Only 70 countries are ranked ‘Free’ while 61 are ‘Partly Free’ and 64 are ‘Not Free’

It’s not just about two TV journalists is it? It’s much larger than that.

On a positive note, there appears to be some hope of a release, if Washington and Pyongyang held talks. Check this site, for updates, and sign a petition here.

5 thoughts on “Arizona vigil for Laura Ling and Euna Lee opens larger question

  1. One of the emerging complications with regards to this particular case is the fact that the crossing of the North Korea-China border by Laura Ling, Euna Lee and cameraman-producer Mitch Koss was in no way a critical component of te story they were reporting. They had finished interviewing NK refugees in Yanji, China, and chose to then venture to the area of Mapai Village despite the cautionary words on the phone that morning from the pastor who organized the trip.

    Yes, they should be released; yes, North Korea’s punishment is ridiculous beyond words. But the fact that this extra excursion was not for the “good” of the story perhaps takes this one out of the realm of the very valid point you raise.


  2. I have found that when I want to check facts on a story someone is tweeting I always go to a news site be it a newspaper or a site such as CNN.

    I do applaud the growth of people paying attention and trying to report what they see and hear however it is hard to take what is found on blogs with out a grain of salt. Mostly because so many of these bloggers have a “point of view”. An example can be “Corrupt CPS” which reports on problems with social services around the country. I find interesting information on that site but can’t use it because the argument can be made that some or most of those people are bad parents whining because their children have been removed from home. While they may not be bad parents the cloud of suspicion is still there.

    What is more disturbing to me about the mainstream media is why they aren’t reporting on very important stories such as Israel not allowing humanitarian aide into Palestine including the fact that such a ship was stopped and the humanitarians were arrested and held for 6 days (One of the detainees was former congress woman Cynthia McKinney) and later deported? Did you know Israel does not allow toys for the children or olive oil or even dates to be sent into Palestine? Or the story about the sitting President of Honduras being kidnapped and expelled from the country including the fact that the US is the only country in the Americas that still has diplomatic relationship with Honduras. And last but not least the Ling and Lee story that to me is very important.

    We may have a sort of free press but it is apparent that the press as a group seem to leave some stories alone or only do a cursory look and move on. If it were not for some of the independent citizen reporters some of these stories would not see the light of day, or would be reported on in a quick blurb and forgotten.

    Where are the in depth reports on the unintended consequences of the cap and trade bill or the health care bill? While both these bills have good intentions may not help at all if they bankrupt the country at a time when everyone is barely hanging on. The time for these reforms were twenty years ago when the economy could have absorbed some of the initial higher costs where now there is no way we can dig deeper because so many of our pockets have holes in them and are totally empty.

    So while we do have a free press I am not sure the best use is being made of it. Too often news orginizations try to make people happy not informed. I do care about a free press as do many of my friends but we all feel the story choices could be better and much more informative.


  3. I just want to say as a Child Advocate I hold the people at Corrupt CPS in high regard for the work they do to bring the attention needed to the problem of families whose children have been wrongly removed from homes. I support them one hundred percent and was only using their web site as an example of how hard it can be to get information from the main stream press on some issues that are important to all of us.


    • Bettie,

      In what way am I sadly misinformed. I do research all the time. Many times I find it very difficult to find information that I feel is trustworthy and not bent to the opinions of the web site I go to. Please let me know in what way I am misinformed?


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