Here's an interesting statistic on "e-waste" (like most, made up on the spot). Four out of five journalists who contact me beforehand decide not to run the story on "e-waste" at all.
Reporters are initially attracted to the Basel Action Network's press release or photo opportunity (exotic brown child perched on familiar looking old electronics). That BAN press release has, for 15 years, triggered interest in reporters and college researchers. An easy story to write, as BAN served "facts" up on a platter.
But Jim Puckett is no Upton Sinclair. He wrote about Agbogbloshie in chilling text - before admitting to me he had never been there at all. He had never even read a peer reviewed article.
The "ewastehoax" says junk in cities across the globe is the fault of "sham recyclers"... if only we use a USA recycling company that pays dividends to Jim Puckett, we will quickly clean these places up.
The Ewastehoax promises a moral lesson of "environmental injustice", and triggers three Steven Pinker-esque cognitive biases:
1. Nurture. We actually care about the poor child.
2. Greed. We suspect someone else's actions were driven by it.
3. Fear. We are afraid of our own liability for our "stuff".
It's an easy recipe. BAN isn't the only organization to use it. Annie Leonard, Blacksmith Institute, StEP, R2 (SERI), E-Stewards, CBS 60 Minutes, The Guardian, etc. all followed the trail on these instincts.
If you are a good photographer, that is all you need to put some guy like Joseph "Hurricane" Benson of BJ Electronics behind prison bars. You can be the reporter that made him sell his house, that cost him his business and his retirement.
You are so cool. You no doubt picked up all kinds of dates interested in your brave reporting. Did you tell them about Joe Benson, the Nigerian TV repairman who shipped a TV with a GPS tracker to Ghana? Did you describe the satisfaction of Benson going to jail, like Raphael Rowe of BBC's Panorama did?
Oh, wait. News flash. Raphael Rowe got fired? (According to this article, "Pushed Out", but there's still some uncertainty as I research this, he's still on BBC 2 local). And Interpol has pulled the plug on Project Eden. All since Fair Trade Recycling's 2015 trip to Agbogbloshie, where we saw a city slum near a dump full of tires, cars, and junk appliances - all once owned by Africans, from a thriving city of millions of consumers. Even the dozens (not thousands) of (adult) orphans there all carry cell phones, and can send photos of where they collected the scrap... at Accra homes and businesses, which had millions of TVs in the mid 1990s.
Benson may have the last laugh on Raphael Rowe. Though he has suffered, journalism students once attracted to "environmental justice" stories are increasingly documenting "environmental malpractice", "friendly fire", and "collateral damage" to Africa's Tech Sector.
Whether or not Raphael Rowe stays on at BBC, he's still know for having been racially profiled. As will be Joseph "Hurricane" Benson. As Rowe said in an interview "bitterness never leaves you".