America, Boston Marathon Attacks, Controvery, Death, Dying, government, Homicide, Journalism, Life Lessons, Loss, Politics, Self Improvement, Terrorism

In Defense of Real Journalism

This blog is a companion to the last blog I wrote titled The Boston Marathon Explosion in Pictures.

What would the world be without technology? At the click of a button, people can find monotonous amounts of information. When Alexander Bell invented the telephone, he probably had no idea what that would one day become. Nowadays people can carry mini computers in their pockets that make phone calls. I know because I have the “phablet” Samsung Galaxy Note II. These phones take pictures, surf the internet, transmit data and many other things. In a moment, people can capture anything on a device and upload it to Facebook, Twitter and various other social media environments.

Photo credits to Bill Hoenk of TIME Magazine http://www.time.com
Photo credits to Bill Hoenk featured in  TIME Magazine
http://www.time.com

That’s a far cry from the cameras of old.

Photography is changing and photojournalism is changing as well. Journalists used to hope and pray that they would get notice of an event, whether it be good or bad before their competition found out the information. Nowadays, everybody has access to all kinds of information, so it’s a chronic rush to publish before the competition. But, it’s important to cover the truth and only the truth.

Whether one likes it or not, the journalists cannot always capture the good moments. This world is full of tragedy and it’s up to them to capture those pictures as well.

Time Magazine just released the front cover of their newest edition and it features a little boy crying with blood in his hair. He was a victim of the Boston Marathon attacks. Now many of you may be disgusted by this image, while some of you may be moved by it.

But this little boy is a face of millions of children in the United States; the millions of children that could have been on that cover if they were in Boston that day. This little boy is lucky to be alive and people are upset that he graces the cover.

Why?

Tragedies aren’t supposed to be easy to look at. Tragedies are supposed to remind us that life is precious and that we need to live every day with purpose. Tragedies remind us that we aren’t invincible. The United States may be a great nation, but the people of America need to remember that there is not such thing as invincibility or being untouchable.

But the thing is, it’s always been like this in the world of photojournalism. Even back to the Vietnam War and way before that. Journalists have been capturing the truth for a number of years and they have faced scrutiny for it many times.

Photo credit to Kim Phuc. Found on: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/05/in_pictures_the_vietnam_war_/html/5.stm
Photo credit to Kim Phuc. Found on: http://news.bbc.co.uk/

Many people do not realize the problems photojournalists face. Photojournalists are there to document events as they happen without any interference. Why with no interference? Well, because that compromises the validity of the story. I was taught in my ethics class by Russell Frank at the Pennsylvania State University that it is completely unethical to change a situation or interact in a situation that you are documenting. That is both in writing and in photography. The only, and I mean absolutely only time anyone should intervene is to prevent death. Otherwise, journalists are supposed to be flies on the wall of their situations. Journalists have a duty to their readers to present nothing but truth and facts. No person wants to read a story and find out that the journalist lied, and no one wants to see a picture that was staged or extremely photoshopped. It’s not truth, therefore there is no room for it in the journalism world.

Photojournalists have been capturing those hard moments for a number of years. Quite frequently photojournalists are placed in war zones with the American troops to send images back to their news companies for publication. Sometimes those images can be quite graphic. But that’s their duty. War is not pretty and if any of you out there are so blinded that you think it is, you are sadly mistake. People die, people bleed and it can be hard saying good-bye to your fellow brothers in arms. Some photojournalists have been taken hostage or even killed. Lisa Ling and Euna Lee were captured in North Korea in 2009 and put into a prison until Former President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea to negotiate their release.

How many of you have traveled to document something and been put into prison?

Photo Credit to Eddie Adams during the Vietnam War. Found at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/05/in_pictures_the_vietnam_war_/html/6.stm
Photo Credit to Eddie Adams during the Vietnam War. Found at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/

People also forget that they seek information and sometimes that means getting what you do not want to see. Online mediums often place disclaimers to their graphic content.

But is it really their job to protect people from the truth?

When the planes crashed in to the Twin Towers, Pentagon and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, photojournalists faced similar dilemmas that those of the Boston Marathon attacks faced:
“What am I walking in to?”
“I must separate my feelings from my job.”
“It’s my job to report the whole truth.”

Can you imagine walking out the front door with a camera or a pen and notebook in your hand hearing that these tragedies occurred?

Think about that for one second. Your loved one could be in one of those buildings that may fall to the ground..

And you have to do your job.

Maybe photojournalists aren’t so bad after all. Maybe they’re just trying to make a living like the other millions of Americans in this country.

A lot of people argue that photojournalists aren’t really human when they publish photos that are controversial to others. A lot of people argue that there are certain things people should not see.

But, why is the truth so bad? Would you rather be lied to?

It’s hard to be a real journalist. It is hard to sit at a desk and pound out a story on a daily basis. It is hard to go to a simple borough council meeting and determine the most important factors  to put into a story to give to the people of your town. It is hard to go to a sporting event and cover every single play and get every single player’s name spelled correctly. It is hard to weigh what is important for a reader to know and what is not important for people to know. It is hard to be standing behind a lens and see a dead body. It is hard to look up and see planes flying into a building while fire and ash spew from the sides. It is hard to see people dismembered lying on the ground.

Photo credit to Richard Drew of the Associated Press. Featured at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/09/pictures/110908-about-911-september-9-11-twin-world-trade-center-towers-indelible/#/september-9-11-attacks-anniversary-ground-zero-world-trade-center-pentagon-flight-93-falling-man_39992_600x450.jpg
Photo credit to Richard Drew of the Associated Press. Featured at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com

It is hard to be a journalist.

But if there were no journalists, no one would ever know anything. And if people don’t know anything, then they cannot protect themselves.

The next time one looks at a picture and feels like complaining about its content,

Perhaps you should take a moment and step back and think of how the person that took that photograph felt knowing all he or she could do was capture that moment and hope for the best.

We all feel, some of our professions just don’t allow us the luxury of acting on our emotions.

If you want to check out more images, feel free to not only search, but check out these sites:
http://lightbox.time.com/2013/03/18/a-decade-of-war-in-iraq-the-images-that-moved-them-most/#5
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/09/pictures/110908-about-911-september-9-11-twin-world-trade-center-towers-indelible/#/september-9-11-attacks-anniversary-ground-zero-world-trade-center-pentagon-flight-93-airplane-shanksville_39999_600x450.jpg

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