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''We aim to stay on this story because we think it's going to be compelling for weeks to come.''
So says eNews group news editor Ben Said. I spoke with him early this morning about the excellent TV coverage of eNews and the eNews Channel (DStv 403) of Haiti where eNews now has their own cameraman, TV reporter Jody Jacobs and eNews Output Editor Louis Oelofse on the scene about which I wrote RIGHT HERE yesterday.
I asked Ben Said about eNews' logistical challenges of having a TV reporter in Haiti, what went into the decision to send someone, how they actually got there, and the challenges of a South African TV news channel getting TV footage out of Haiti.
For my interview with Ben Said and his very interesting answers, you can click on READ MORE below!
Why did you decide to send to send Jody Jacobs and Louis Oelofse to Haiti?
Well this is a big story, it's a bigger story than the tsunami even. You’ve got possibly 200 000 people dead in one of the poorest countries of the world. Haiti also has been an issue that has been pretty close to South Africa in that we've got Jean Bertrand-Aristide over here.
Obviously doing TV news is very expensive. What was some of the considerations that went into the decision whether or not to send a TV reporter there?
We're quite lucky in this coutry that we have aid organisations like Aid SA and Rescue SA and Gift of the Givers who are very professional. They can fly straight into Port-au-Prince and there's no commercial flights going there and our team went with them so we were quite lucky in that regard. We had a discussion regarding the logistics of getting the stories back – we had no idea of who had satellite fascilities there.
Obviously telecommunication issues are massive as well, so it is difficult, but we have quite sophisticated equipment. We have satellite internet stations. We are getting footage back via the internet essentially, where you set up a little satellite dish in Haiti that essentially sends the footage back to us. We have satellite phones as well. Haiti is a very difficult place to work but clearly not impossible.
That's my next question, what are the logistical challenges in getting the news back so far? It's different time zones and things like that of course.
Obviously the time zones are a problem. And I know from personal experience from working on that side of the world what it takes to make it work to do a story for our 19:00 bulletin in the evening. You've got to really start feeding at about probably 9 or 10 in the morning, which means you're essentially shooting your story the day before, then you've got hours of editing and getting it ready and then feed it back to South Africa. If you go to Asia, its fantastic because you're ahead of the game and you've got a lot of time.
Obviously the communications issue has been a problem. We use a satellite system called a B-CAM and it gets very slow when there's a lot of news organisations in one place using it. I think also getting a hold of the guys is difficult. It's been very intermittent. A couple of days ago we couldn't get a hold of them at all, we didn't hear from them for a day.
Any idea of how long you will keep the guys there? Is it on a touch and go, day by day basis?
Jody Jacobs will have to cut back with the Rescue SA team because they can't fly commercial, so they have to come back with the Rescue SA charter flight. We will keep Louis Oelofse and the cameraman there and then hopefully in a couple of days we will send another TV reporter. We aim to stay on this story because we tink it's going to be compelling for weeks to come.