I’ve spent lots of time in newsrooms, for both print and broadcast news organizations. My first job was as a reporter; the ethics of journalism were pounded into me at an early age. Be objective, don’t do anything to tamper with the integrity of the story, and report the facts. As a blogger, however, I can’t say I follow those same rules.
Should a journalist be so removed from a story that they let someone die?
A photo journalist at the Washington Post recently wrote about watching someone endure the fatal consequences of a snake bite; all the while she took pictures, documenting the man’s death. The article, “Why I Watched a Snake-handling Pastor Die for his Faith” chronicles the photo journalist’s ethical dilemma: to help or to remain objective. In the end, she maintained her distance and shot the photos.
Would a blogger remain as objective?
In 2005, milblogger Michael Yon was embedded with an American troop in Iraq. When the soldiers found themselves under siege, one of whom was shot three times and another who was in hand to hand combat, Yon picked up a rifle to join the battle. You can read an overview of Yon’s story by checking out, “Michael Yon versus General Brooks.” In short, Yon inserted himself into the “story” to help save a soldier’s life.
What about citizen journalists?
In this day and age, every one of us can be a citizen journalist. With video and still cameras on nearly every cell phone, all of us can–and do–capture the world around us. But, as “regular people” do we just capture what we see or do we get involved?
Case in point, a video was captured this week during a road rage incident in Los Angeles, California. Four men got out of their cars after the altercation and two guys filmed the encounter from the safety of their car. One man was severely beaten and repeatedly kicked in the head, but the men behind the video camera did nothing to intervene. The video is below.
It used to be that the “media” were are all trained journalists. They represented formal news agencies and their reporting was held to an ethical and professional standard. But, with the rise of new media, anyone can start a blog, podcast, or Web TV series. Any of us can capture video with our phones and upload it to YouTube or Facebook in seconds. No editor, no news director. We’re all self publishers; we’re all media.
So, where’s the line? Do all of these groups play a different, but important, role? Is a journalist removed, a blogger engaged, and a citizen journalist a voyeur? Is one of these ways right and the others wrong? Or are the differences important, with each of these groups serving their own unique purpose?