Last week I went to the Sam Sullivan Public Salon at the Playhouse where many speakers from different facets of society get together and speak about a variety of topics. I was there to see Peter Klein who is the head of the journalism department at UBC. Klein, originally from New York, worked at 60 Minutes before moving to Vancouver. He won an Emmy for his journalism which has appeared in The New York Times and the Christian Monitor.
He spoke about his foundation The International Reporting Program which recently did a project on how many people in developing countries don’t have access to morphine, despite it being a widely available drug. What he found was more than half the countries in the world don’t have proper access to morphine. Together with a group of UBC students, Klien traveled to Uganda, India, and Ukraine to find out why people were dying in unnecessary agony.
What he found was a complication of politics, war and archaic laws prevented doctors and nurses from administrating a rather simple injection. For example, India grows poppies which morphine is abstracted from and has a large vibrant pharmaceutical industry which makes vast amounts of cheap morphine but because of the complex bureaucracy most doctors are afraid to prescribe it. The students made a documentary which aired on Al Jazeera which is called Freedom from Pain.
This is the sort of reporting that in the past would have been done by newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post or the Globe and Mail but because of the cutbacks and downsizing of staff they no longer have the budget to do extensive, money-sucking projects of this magnitude.
Instead it takes a group of students funded by donations to film an important story that isn’t covered in other media outlets. It is a strange irony that as the world gets smaller, so does the focus of our journalism. With the internet and Facebook and Twitter journalism should be expanding its horizon, not shrinking them–and this is all because of an unsubstainable business model.
Which is why in the modern world projects like The International Reporting Project are vital to our society and dialogue between our divided world. Please visit www.internationalreporting.org for more information about Peter Klein and his projects.