Sunday, January 31, 2010

The ethics of reporting in Haiti

To me, one of the most dynamic, engaging discussions in journalism revolves around ethics. Unfortunately, I don't think these discussions happen as often as they should. But with all the coverage coming from Haiti recently, I was glad to see a few articles tackle these issues.

In journalism ethics, there is a wide spectrum of beliefs that range from the very traditional views (Journalists should never be part of the story, ever, in any way, at all. Ever.) to newer, more "liberal" views (Journalists can be part of the story and still cover it with no problem whatsoever.) Then there are those views that fall somewhere in the middle (Journalists are humans first, journalists second. Give them a break!). I tend to fall in the middle, with a bit of a traditional slant. I feel the onset of citizen journalism and rising political/social involvement has begun to warp journalists' ethical framework. And it doesn't help that these discussions hardly ever occur.

So when I read Poynter's Jan. 22 article SPJ tells journalists in Haiti not to become part of the story, my interest was immediately sparked. The article address the Society of Professional Journalists' recent declaration in which the "SPJ cautions journalists to avoid making themselves part of the stories they are reporting." But what does that really mean? SPJ President Kevin Smith mentioned "advocacy, self promotion, offering favors for news and interviews, injecting oneself into the story or creating news events for coverage" as examples of failing to provide independent, objective newsgathering. Essentially, the group wants to remind journalists to "avoid blurring the lines between being a participant and being an objective observer."

One of my big projects during my undergrad examined this very issue, specifically citing the reporting on Hurricane Katrina at the height of the devastation. One particular issue involved reporters who were assisting in rescue efforts, inviting refugees onboard their boats, handing out water bottles and lending cell phones. To many, these seem like the most basic acts a person can do for another, but as journalists, is that going too far? Does this "blur the line between being a participant and being an objective observer"?

The same goes for the situation in Haiti. If a reporter is assisting in aid efforts and becoming so emotionally invested, will it affect his/her ability to report the news?

I'm not going to pretend to know the answer. This situation is a very, very sticky one, and I can never know what it would be like to cover such devastation and tragedy. I can only imagine what these brave journalists are going through. My guess is many of them will never be the same when they come back. But I do think there is merit in what the SPJ is saying. It can't be easy, but I think our jobs as journalists are not easy — they are challenging and messy and extremely trying. And it has to be essential for those journalists to do their best to provide that objective account that only they can offer.

The SPJ certainly received some harsh criticism in reaction to these statements, but I applaud them for putting out that unpopular view. At a time when no one is thinking about the ethics of reporting in Haiti, and understandably so, it's of the utmost important to remind these professionals to keep it in mind.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thunderbird American Indian Dancers

Native American dance troupe Thunderbird American Indian Dancers held a concert and pow wow at the Theater for The New City in Manhattan's East Village on Jan. 29, 2010.

Audio slideshow, with photos from Sarah Tung:

Photo slideshow from Flickr:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Portrait shoot

This semester, I am taking a photojournalism course at Tisch, with Jeffrey Henson Scales, a New York Times photographer. Our first assignment was to do portraits of one of our classmates. I fortunately was paired up with Patrick Barragan, who is quite a character. Check out this Flickr slideshow of our fun-filled photo shoot on a dock overlooking the Hudson River.

Hint: It looks even better if you click on the link that takes you to Flickr. 

Ethics shmethics

Upcoming topics:

Journalism ethics, or the lack thereof, and the blurry lines surrounding these issues.

In particular, I plan to discuss the ethical concerns surrounding Haiti coverage, pointing to the following links:

I hope you'll read and join in the discussion. Keep an eye out for this post in the next couple of days.

A new vision

Greetings, blogosphere.

I have a confession to make: About four months ago, I started this blog — not because I had an overwhelming feeling to express my views with the world or even because I was fascinated by the notion of blogging. Rather, my intentions were simple: I was obligated.

I began grad school at NYU in September 2009, and as part of my writing/reporting class, I had to maintain a blog. So I created this account and began posting, albeit mostly just my recent assignments to what I can only assume is a very small audience.

But it's a new year, and a new semester, and the rules have changed. I am again required to maintain a blog, this time for my entrepreneurial journalism class (which in itself will make for a ton of discussion on here). However, I can guarantee the contents of this blog will be much different. I see little value in simply posting my work to likely fewer than a handful of readers.

This time around I want to discuss real issues and relevant topics. One of the most important hallmarks of journalism is the opportunity to bring to light people and issues that otherwise wouldn't be examined. I think it's hugely important to find these characters and tell their stories, and I will certainly continue to do that. But beyond that, I think it's important to look at the larger picture.

I plan to look at issues affecting the media and journalism. From ethics and photography & photojournalism to new technologies and the many innovations changing the media landscape — all these issues and more are fair game.

My goal is to inform and shed light on these matters, but even more, I'd love to start a discussion. I want to know what you know and what you think. I want to share information but I also want to learn. I hope you contribute to the conversation and spread the word.

And please, don't be a stranger. Check in often and keep me posted. I'll be sure to do the same for you.