Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Truth vs The Ethics

Can ethics come into play when you are showing something real and true? Should they come into play? Should people's emotions and fears be taken into account? How does a journalist decide when and when not to break the law?

During George H.W. Bush's presidential term, a ban was put on photographing the loading and unloading of deceased American soldier coffins that have been draped with our flag. The ban still stands today, but President Obama is considering getting rid of the ban.

The real question here is...should or should there not be a ban under these circumstances.

My take on the entire situation is that the ban is pointless. There is a reason why we have photographers in the right places at the right time. I understand that some people think it is indecent and an invasion of privacy. But when you really think about it, what is privacy anyway?

Privacy: the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one's private life or affairs. (

With this definition, it makes me realize that there is no such thing as privacy. The government has our phone lines tapped, government and law enforcement video camera's are everywhere, anybody can go to a government associated building and look at other people's personal documents, etc. Everyone's life is on blast 24/7, so why should photographers and reporters not take a chance when it is given to them? Do you believe that the corpses in those coffins are going to be angry that the flash is too bright? Or are you just concerned that the families won't want their deceased loved one's coffins photographed for the world to know what is going on in a place we know very little about.

A woman by the name of Tami Silicio took the picture below of flag-draped coffins being loaded into a cargo plane at the Kuwait International Airport.

Click photograph to enlarge

The photo was picked up by the Seattle Times and was run on the front page of the April 18, 2004 issue with Silicio's permission. The Times had warned Silicio of the consequences of possibly losing her job as a Kuwait base cargo worker, but Silicio gave them her permission anyway. As a result, Silicio lost her job a few days later on April 21, 2004.

Should Silicio have lost her job? Of course not! She wasn't doing it out of spite or anger or any other random emotion. She took the picture because of what it represented and I fear for the people who don't understand her purpose.

Should she have let the Times run the picutre? Of course! People should know about the consequences of having to live a life surrounded by death and turmoil. People should see things like what this picture encompasses and realize that something needs to be done. And things need to be done in a lot of areas.

1) The ban should be lifted and people should be shown what they need to see.
2) The government needs to realize that they can't control journalism. We are not yet government funded.
3) People need to realize that this is righteous information, not random pictures taken to hurt peoples emotions.

It's hard to say where the line can be drawn when it comes to taking pictures as journalists. The picture of the flag-draped coffins is not the same as a picture of a child covered in blood, missing limbs. I still think the child would be a newsworthy picture, but the ethics issue would drench a picture like that.

*As I took an hour or so break from this blog, I have been informed that there has been a relaxation instituted upon the ban of photographing fallen soldiers' coffins. Check and the Pentagon website for more information.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Essence of 'This'

What makes someone want to be a journalist? What is the one factor that makes them want to be the ones that find out everything about anything and publish it for the world to see? What makes me want to do what I am doing?

It's a tough question and I'm not quite sure what the answer is. If you are like me or aspire to be in some form of the media, then you know that our industry is having a huge job shift right now that a lot of people are not ready for. And yet, some of us still want to pursue a career in the journalism field. The real question is why. Why on earth would we want to put ourselves through such a struggle, during such a horrible economy, through such hard times, with so many obstacles, etc?

I think it's the passion we have for words. The saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words"...but in my book...the words are what make the picture a picture. A picture is described with words and the words give the picture meaning. Rereading what I just wrote, I'm not sure that made much sense. But what can you do without words? What can you do without knowing what is going on? What can the world do without journalists?

If I were on the outside looking in, I believe that the world would live in fear without us. Nobody would know what was going on without internet publications, print publications, radio announcements, television programs, newswires, podcasts, netcasts, audio clips, ect. Nobody would know if they were in a safe place or in the middle of hell, if you believe in such things.

I know people hate to say it, but we as journalists are the real protectors of the world. You can't know about crimes and speculations of nuclear bombs if there is no form of communication to the public. Do you really think that if the government was on it's own and didn't have journalists in D.C. that they would let us know about anything? I have very little faith in the system, with or without President Obama. The government only has time to stop things, not play show and tell.

There is a point to my rambling. The fact is, is that somebody has to do it. Somebody has to keep the public informed. The amount of journalists in the world...I will never know. There are tons of us. But the truth is...we're needed. And we like to be needed. We want to be trusted with your protection. We'll always be here and we'll be the ones to do it.

According to the 'unreliable sources of Wikipedia', as of May 2008, the United States has 1,422 daily newspapers and 6,253 weeklies, thousands of news channels, thousands of radio stations, and thousands of magazines. But believe it or not, they are all here just for you.