I was a Guam fixer for China Global TV
‘Fixer.’ It’s a cynical journalistic tag for the folks who are hired to guide visiting reporters and TV crews around breaking stories all over the world. It implies that handing out bribes to facilitate the newsgathering process is part of the job, but that’s not necessarily the case.
More important, visiting reporters need to figure out an unfamiliar culture, local government and the geography of their destination in a hurry while working out how to tell the story to which they’ve been assigned. If they do their job, the fixers line up transportation, connect the visitors with interviewees and help to put the story of the day in context.
The war of words between North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump put plenty of people on Guam in the fixer business if only for a few days of the “crisis.”
The China Global TV Network team, based in Manila, got off a Philippine Airlines flight at 6:30 a.m. ready to get the story. It would be a pretty intense three and a half days for reporter Barnaby Lo and his husband and wife video crew, Peter and Geraldine Carney.
Within a couple of hours they were at the Tumon Bay IHOP, chasing down breakfast and getting perspective on the Guam view of North Korea. Then to the KSTO radio studio where a middle of the night error led to the broadcast of a disaster warning, though it created no noticeable panic on the island.
Then the destination was the Guam governor’s office in Adelup, where the team heard the Lieutenant Governor and other officials offer reassurance, for the third day, that all was well, tourists were still coming and that the local government was satisfied with the protections offered by the U.S. military presence on Guam.
At day’s end, correspondent Lo was writing script, editing video with the team and getting ready to be quizzed—live –by an anchor in Beijing.
Visiting TV reporters must be very serious: Antonia Yamin, Israeli TV, Tammy White, NBC, Martin Savidge, CNN
Although it became increasingly clear that Kim had blinked under pressure and that missiles weren’t about to strike the waters around Guam, the crew chased after Governor Eddie Baza Calvo, who was engaged in getting his grandson to school, along with 30,000 other island kids to get the official word. It was likely the first time that this bit of normality—the reopening of Agana Heights Elementary School—got international media coverage.
The impact of all this on Guam tourism now and in the future became a big part of the story, but hard to tell on a very rainy day on the beach. South Korean tourists in front of the Pacific Islands Club seemed pleased with their vacation, despite the rain and Kim’s threats with which they are very familiar. Elsewhere on Tumon Bay, it also seemed like tourism business as usual.
South Korean tourists on the Pacific Islands Club-Guam beach on a very rainy day
Sometimes even a fixer learns something about where he or she lives from the visitors. The CGTV crew was impressed by Guam’s open and free public beaches and the general lack of hassle they experienced while going about their work. Quite a contrast to Manila they agreed.
So Barnaby Lo didn’t find a war or missile attack on Guam to cover, but back in Manila his new assignment, covering the escalating, bloody extra-judicial war of police against alleged junkies and drug pushers, is likely more dangerous than anything experienced on this island.