Friday, March 27, 2009

Journalism is a human process

I would have to agree with Diane on empathy. While journalists strive for fairness, truth and accuracy, empathy has to be delicately weaved in because journalism is people reporting on people. Journalism is not a process done by machines, people without feelings, and it doesn't just cover events and disasters, but the people they affect who also have feelings.

The media has great power to destroy or uplift any person, and it is a great responsibility. I think sometimes it is easy to forget our purpose behind writing the truth: to educate, and ultimately HELP people. We are supposed to be the people's advocate, but often the big conglomerates are more empathetic to the big wigs than the people who's voices need to be heard. Empathy is all but spelled out in the SPJ code of ethics. Minimize harm by treating sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

A quote from "Today's Word," explains this:

"Across our industry it is harder to find managers and proprietors who grasp the essence of journalism. It is difficult to reconcile that somehow, with all our communication skills, we fail to convey, even to our own employers, the worth of what we do.” --Chris Masters, Australian author and TV journalist, 2008

I believe an empathetic journalist writes better stories, gets better interviews, and helps more people because an empathetic journalist is one who shows good taste, and ultimately has their goal to serve their readers, and those affected by the readership. I think a great example of this is the Vietnam War, as we discussed in class. The truth was reported, and it hurt many people. However, it ultimately helped change the course of the war, and advocated the opinion of the people. The sensitivity these stories required was tremendous. Is it ethical to show a picture of a foreign child who is a burn victim? Empathetic journalists had a tough decision.

A last word from the SPJ code. I love where it says "pursuit of news is not a license for arrogance." I totally agree. Journalists have great responsibility, but not a birth-given right to exploit what they feel like. On the other hand, I think the public needs to be more understanding of the media (those who cover news anyway) because it is a freakin' hard job. Someone is always mad or offended no matter what. The truth hurts sometimes.

Another quote from "Today's Word" says this beautifully and painfully true:

"The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it." --Lasantha Wickramatunga (1958-2009), outspoken editor, The Sunday Leader, assassinated Jan. 8 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. From his own editorial-obituary written to be published posthumously

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