Thursday, April 16, 2009

Doors, Huts, and the Occasional Tree

I've been laying off listening to much NPR news, but I happened to hear Gwen Thomkins reporting on the census in Sudan on Wednesday's ATC (the comments at the link are worth a look). If you can stand it, the first minute of the report is worth a listen just to hear how awkward and silly Thomkins can be. In the opening of the story Thomkins makes this priceless statement:
"This is what's happened so far: last April two separate commissions representing North Sudan and the semi-autonomous South dispatched thousands of enumerators abroad in the land. The enumerators knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors, huts, and the occasional tree and interviewed millions of people."
Occasional tree! Jeez, does NPR have anyone editing this rubbish? I'm sorry, but if a reporter handed me that, I'd just cut it to "knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors and interviewed millions of people." I found myself wondering which "occasional tree" was Thomkins thinking of?

Maybe it was this one she recalled from watching old movies?

Or maybe this one from a trip to Disneyland?

Or maybe she's a bit more contemporary and was thinking of George of the Jungle?


miranda said...

Unbelievable! Or, business as usual on "All Things Condescended."

Juan "Toss" Ensalada said...


I heard this one too. Here was my comment on the NPR blog:

"The reporters metaphors and comparisons ruined what could have been an otherswise interesting story. Poloraid cameras, [Sudan] country size 9x Pennsylvania, Roman numerals and a giant eraser. And those are the only references I can remember. Send this reporter back to "story-telling" school. I'd say that her quaint and dated references seeemed appropriate for children, but that would be insulting of our youth."

Other comments on the story were similiarly critical, dealing mostly with her inaccurate (or perhaps inappropriate) uses of race, ethnicity and color.

I guess NPR would rather be clever with its narrative than accurate with its story.


Anonymous said...

"knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors, huts, and the occasional tree and interviewed millions of people."

By my "enumeration", that would be about 10 people per tree."

Must be big trees -- even bigger than the ones shown in the pictures.

Maybe they have redwoods in Sudan?

Porter Melmoth said...

I've been yak-attacking Our Miss Gwen for a long time, and it apparently has made things WORSE. To my mind, she is absolutely the WRONG person to be covering Africa, for the very reasons mentioned here. Her Entertainment Tonight/Reading Rainbow (!) 'report' from Libya some time ago was at the bottom, though. And of course, because she is of African heritage, Gwen feels she has a license to condescend unto the Dark Continent any way she feels. I don't think anyone at NPR Central Control censors or edits her because they are of the same mind. Aside from the corporate yoke, that 'of the same mind' thing is a BIG prob at NPR.

Thank heavens that I didn't have to subject myself to her rage-inducing reduction of all things African for the tender ears of trembling NPR demographicats.

I still believe that Quist-Arcton is a reliable voice in Africa. Her heritage is BBC.

(PS: the term 'Dark Continent' stems from Stanley's journey through the rainforest canopy in the Congo Basin, and is not based on race, though it has obviously morphed into something like that.)

Hubertg said...

Doors and Huts and Trees, Oh my !!

Somebody has a pretty good sense of humor. Not bad at all :)