NEW YORK (AP) – For media covering the spread of Ebola in West Africa, the infection of a cameraman who works for NBC offers both a reason to emphasize precaution and to continue to bear witness.
The New York Times’ approach is emblematic of many news organisations: “We want to figure out a way to have maximum protection for people involved in the coverage and also to continue the coverage,” said Joseph Kahn, the newspaper’s international editor.
Other than NBC, no news outlet has publicly cited Ashoka Mukpo’s infection as the impetus for removing personnel from Liberia, where the freelance cameraman had been covering the disease’s rapid spread and the strains it placed on its health care system.
CNN announced yesterday that it was sending reporter Nima Elbagir to that country this weekend and Sanjay Gupta, its most visible medical correspondent, said he’s lobbying his bosses to send him there.
Mukpo, who previously covered Ebola for several news outlets, began working for NBC on Tuesday and fell ill the next day. NBC said yesterday it was concentrating on how to get him and his colleagues out of the country before discussing future coverage plans.
He was working with medical correspondent Dr Nancy Snyderman who said she and others with NBC feel fine, though the network ordered them to return to the United States and quarantine themselves until any danger has passed.
The Today show interviewed Snyderman yesterday via phone because the camera gear that NBC used in Liberia was being disinfected.
“While we are being hyper vigilant, we are at very, very, very low risk of becoming ill,” Snyderman said.
Mukpo has covered the epidemic for several outlets, including Al Jazeera. Vice News said he shot footage for the organisation’s documentary about Liberia, The Fight Against Ebola. CBS News, which hasn’t sent its own reporters to Liberia, said yesterday it had used some of Mukpo’s work to illustrate its stories.
The risks to journalists were evident during the Vice documentary, when correspondent Danny Gold and his camera operator – not Mukpo – debated interviewing some Ebola-infected people who were having trouble finding health care facilities to treat them.
“What’s your vibe?” Gold asked his colleague. They decided not to conduct the interview.