Wednesday, May 15, 2013


The search for bodies in the clothing industry should not stop with a collapsed factory in Bangladesh.   The real bodies local reporters should be searching for are the corporate executives of the GAP and Walmart and JC Penney and all the other clothing merchandisers able to sell clothes at a remarkably low price because of employes who work distressingly long hours for depressingly low wages.

Local reporters should be asking the executives a simple question:   what specific steps has the executive taken in the past two years to improve the working conditions of garment workers in the third world?  And thanks to technology, there's no cost for the video interview.  Just use skype.   And if the corporate executive won't talk, report it.

I had read about clothing factories, but it wasn't until I watched one overpacked truckful of workers after another turning into a garment plant in Phnom Penh, Cambodia  that I gained an actual sense of the human cost of a $9 shirt.   We can buy cheap clothes here because our corporations have them made in conditions that would never be tolerated in this country or Europe.

I got a chance to see how the workers live.   Take a look.   It's ten to a room.

Working conditions for the people who make our clothes should be a story for reporters in every market in the country.   Read the label.    Reporters in every market should be contacting the corporate officials and asking what they are doing about working conditions.   Do they approve?   Is paying women next to nothing to work long hours ok?   What's their position?   Take a look at how employees  commute to work in Cambodia.  Riding on the roof of a van is not a safety violation.  Do corporate executives bringing home healthy bonuses care at all about the humans who make the clothes? 


To produce stories that matter, reporters need to ask questions that make a difference.

The collapse of the clothing factory in Bangladesh is a classic example of an important reporting opportunity missed by local TV reporters.  When journalism fails, bad things happen.



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