Tonga: Not for sale

January 28, 2022

CJR · Tonga: Not for sale


Typical disaster journalism follows a transactional track. Survivors give the press their stories to package and sell. In turn, the media validates the horror and solicits aid. But when Tonga faced a volcanic eruption and tsunami earlier this month, the island nation neither wanted nor needed Western coverage. In fact, our intrusion presented more of a threat than the crisis itself.

On this week’s Kicker, Damien Cave, the New York Times bureau chief in Sydney, and Kyle Pope, editor and publisher of CJR, discuss the island’s dismissal of the global press and the Western media’s boundless assumption that we can help.


Heard, Felt but Barely Seen: How a Volcano Severed Tonga from the World, Damien Cave, New York Times

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Amanda Darrach is a contributor to CJR and a visiting scholar at the University of St Andrews School of International Relations. Follow her on Twitter @thedarrach.