“Seek truth and report it” where do we draw the line?

Birthe Skingen

Birthe Skingen

The idea of presenting human suffering in the media and how it is depicted in war correspondence and war photography provokes controversy within society. I wanted to draw opinions from various areas of journalism. Taking four journalism students aspiring to become journalists in various fields I presented them with the quote based off the ethical issues that arise when presenting human suffering for a story. “Journalists who don’t want to deal honestly with our own humanity and don’t want to take personal responsibility for human impact of our journalism. We’re just doing our jobs. We’re just being objective. Objects can’t be responsible”, and I questioned their opinions on the idea of ‘human suffering’ for a story.

Ethical journalism is a major important aspect of any journalism and sometimes this line of what to show and what not to show can become blurred. How do individuals see it differently and why is it important to journalism?

Young Isabelle Cuff who one day seeks to become a review journalist discussed the idea of War journalisms effect on society; “I think that some war journalism really highlights the negative effects of war and all the horrible things that happen as a result, which in a way is good, because I don’t think war should be glorified”. Aspiring war correspondence/war photojournalist, Daniel Henson could not agree more “Definitely in a negative light for the most part, which is how it should be portrayed”.

When asked about the portrayal of human suffering whether it through a story or a photograph, Daniel Henson makes the point, “Obviously you are going to search out a story. Whether journalists look for human suffering because they want to alleviate it, or because they need the story is a separate matter, and relative to that individual”.

Birthe Skingen who hopes one day to make impact on sports journalism finds that photo journalism gives a ‘face to the faceless’, this idea of making the situation more real for viewers as the story has been humanized by the image. However 21 year old Birthe also finds the concept of human suffering can be misleading. “Sometimes what the media portrays can be taken out of context. In certain situation those that are shown may not actually be suffering as much as we think, how can we really know unless we are there in that situation ourselves”?

The idea of human suffering in the media is an interesting and ongoing discussion. “I guess the idea of human suffering is different for all us, but I feel there is importance in reporting on it. As you cannot fix something unless you know about it.” Jessica Perkins who one day would like to work at festivals as a music journalist points out, “Sometimes you need that shock factor and war correspondence and war photojournalism is what will deliver that”.

Journalists who report either on human suffering or by using human suffering itself to deliver a story, will always have the issue of whether it is considered appropriate or not.


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