Dayton article simplifies complex story

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Special Reports: October 26, 2003: Dayton Daily News reports on Peace Corps Safety and Security: Guest Commentary: Dayton article simplifies complex story

By Anonymous ( - on Wednesday, April 07, 2004 - 3:49 pm: Edit Post

First, as someone who works with the media as my current profession, a report by an investigative journalist will always be biased. His goal is to find information to support his "theory" or cause. Journalism awards are often given for the person who "breaks" a major story, showing how horrible, mismanaged, wrong something is. That is what wins prizes and makes a good story. No journalist get prizes for a story that shows a complicated, complex situation where lots of things were done right most of the time, but some mistakes were made by individuals and even perhaps by an organization as a whole. Generally, complexity is not interesting reading and journalists therefore simplify and sensationalize to make a good story. Certainly, this is part of what has happened here.

As a former Volunteer and PC staff member, I find many aspects of the Dayton article very odd, and some stories by the PCVs in the articles to be contrary to what I understood as standard PC policy. For example the PCVs who say that they had to pay their own plane tickets home when they wanted to leave. In my staff experience, we always paid for the Volunteers plane tickets home if the Volunteer was early terminating or being sent home for medical reasons. This is standard practice. I really can't imagine PC refusing to pay for the flights home unless the story has extenuating factors that are not presented in the article. Also, the article mentions that volunteers did not receive the full $2000-3000 that was "owed" to them by PC for their service when they left early. My understanding of policy is that Volunteers receive the $225 per month for each month served. If one leaves early for any reason, medical, crime or otherwise, and has only served for two months, they will only get $450. The $2000-3000 is an accumulated sum for service provided, similiar to any job. Often, Volunteers disagree with the policies of the organization which is fine, but for the article's author not to point out these facts certainly does suggest an attempt to misrepresent PC or at the very least, poor reporting in not finding out how things work.

This is not to say that there are not problems. Certainly there are. PC does care about safety and security; in my four years at PC I attended at least three conference where safety and security were the focus. However, there is a balance to be acheived between "security" and the PC experience that many Volunteers come to want and expect. That said, Country posts are understaffed and staff overworked, a fact that makes it harder to provide more supervision and follow up when criminal or other cases do arise. The stories are important, the experiences bad, and there is a need for them to be told. The problem is, as I almost always find with the media, the situation is far more complex than is presented in this article; it seems many details have been omitted in the desire to tell a more shocking tale. That is a disservice to all.

By Copout ( - on Thursday, April 08, 2004 - 12:53 pm: Edit Post

It is always "anonymous type" who takes exception to reporting safety and security issues at Peace Corps. You don't know what it is like to go through one of these situations.

If you were a journalist you would post your name.

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