Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NPR (ethnocentrism) Watch, Part II

When NPR’s chief reporter on this “case, Daniel Zwerdling, goes out to investigate, first we hear what appears to be a car alarm, then birds chirping. Then--and this might work on television, but it's more confusing here-- he asks a man if he's one of the mechanics. The man responds, "Ehhhhh," showing that he doesn't speak English. Zwerdling asks him: "Do you speak English?" And the conversation is quickly cut.

The problem when reporting employs tactics that rely heavily on geographic- and language-based stereotypes has nothing to do with the article's aim. It's obviously worthwhile and super-virtuous to find out whether or not the mechanics in these outsourced countries are competent and capable of doing just as good a job as any mechanic anywhere else. The problem is that we don't know if the man Zwerdling "accosts" outdoors near the airport in this opening segment is a mechanic or not. And this crucial information of who we're listening to is kept from us. "Ehhhh" isn't given time nor a translator; he's not allowed to answer. Instead, the cut is made back to the real reporting, the non-English speaking "Ehhhhh" guy is dropped, and we're left thinking: Geez, this mechanic can't fix shit. How can he read how to fix things if he can't speak English (This might not have much to do with competency handling complex avionics equipment, but readers are left to believe that it most certainly does.) And that's the problem I have; why El Salvador? Why not Britain, France or other nations in Europe where these pieces are also repaired? It's plain to see on the map that US airline companies use numerous locations around the world, so why does NPR devote two out of three segments to the tiny nation of El Salvador?

Add to this the trade and commerce complications a foreign corporation such as Aeroman would risk were it to constantly turn out faulty repairs and this argument—that this small Salvadoran factory’s lack of competence is systematic and highly regular—just doesn't make sense. Why not, as the article clearly states, figure out what FAA Regulators have been doing, if they haven't been making the rounds at these factories? Where's the story there? (This is glossed over, when Zwerdling so clearly states that a Government Investigation has found that Federal Investigators haven't been to these factories in years. Italics are mine.) So instead of blaming the Salvadorans, we should be asking in unison with them: Where are our fucking Federal Regulators?

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