The War on Photojournalism: Pictures in the Age of Technology

Standard

Photojournalism is an imperative in the news world. Unlike paper newspapers (although who doesn’t love a good newspaper over breakfast), good photojournalism is the difference between a decent newspaper and one that has fallen victim to the idea of the new age. Certainly there has been an increase in citizen journalism but one of the roles of a journalist, according to the book Blur by Kovach and Rosenstiel, is to be a role model for the citizen journalist. Photojournalism is no different. A good picture is not something taken on a whim; it is the result of hours upon hours of training and work.

photo_4643_20080116

(Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

Photojournalism is a necessity as we move into the age of technology. Photojournalists will be the ones to capture the robotic takeover and possible extraterrestrial invasion, if you believe in such things, because everyone else will be running for their lives. My teacher alleged that conflict photojournalists often have a sort of invincibility about them. They believe, in some deep part of their brain that they may not even be conscious of, that they will never die. In a way all photojournalists have a resilience that the public at large doesn’t have. They document the pain of a coffin coming home from a war far away, the joy of a new baby born to a royal family, the despair of a nation when a beloved president is assassinated. They capture much more than a picture, they capture emotion, raw and heart wrenching as it is.

photo_1045_20060208

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

When we remove photojournalists from the picture, we remove much more than quality; we remove role models for citizen journalists and depth from our pictures. The emotion of a moment can’t be caught on a phone, at least not all the time; it takes a professional trained in the art of photojournalism to consistently see that which will make a good story-telling photo. Photojournalists hold a key part of the news world in their hands, they see the world as unparalleled images of beauty and agony, and that is why their removal from journalism will signal the end of journalism as a whole.

photo_1577_20060517

(Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

The P.R. Way of Life

Standard

I’ll be the first to say I’ve never been a fan of Public Relations officials, or at least I’ve never been a fan of my idea of how the P.R. world works. I’ve always thought that P.R. officials covered up the slimy conduct of their clients by distracting the public with shiny, new ad campaigns showing all the good the company does. After reading PR’s New Frontier: Storytelling at the Speed of Now by Richard Edelman, I understand that P.R. is similar to CIA operations; we only really hear about them when there has been a massive foul up. P.R. isn’t just about saving face; it’s about creating an aura of decency and profitability around a company.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

Edelman lays out three basic concepts that, in his mind, envelop the duties of a P.R. agency: evolve, promote, protect, (Edelman 5). Evolution, according to Edelman, is “help[ing] position and transform companies…and their brands,” (Edelman 6). Simply put, P.R. companies help businesses adapt to changing business landscapes. A P.R. agent, therefore, must be as adaptable as they encourage their clients to be. Promotion, Edelman elucidates, is “help[ing] launch products…creat[ing] demand, spark[ing] conversations, generat[ing] visibility, driv[ing] retail traffic and trigger[ing] purchase,” (Edelman 6). This means that in addition to being adaptable, a P.R. agent must be creative. They need to know how to manipulate consumers into buying their client’s products. Finally a P.R. agency must protect their clients by “engag[ing] in the intellectually challenging work required to manage crises in real time…help[ing] to repair sentiments…and navigate reputational attacks,” (Edelman 6). The reality is that demonizing the P.R. world removes a lot of the good that companies do. Companies may choose to ignore the poverty around them in favor of profit if a P.R. officer didn’t intervene. The job of a P.R. person appears to be that of a wise guide. They function as the leader of companies to a path that attracts profit but keeps the consumers’ values in mind. In a way they’re the real superheroes of the corporate world.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

Journalism: Painful Truth-Tellers or Emotional Vultures

Standard

            Diana Sugg’s Anatomy of the Story is everything reporting should be and everything it shouldn’t be. The gripping emotional rawness is compelling and it’s hard not to identify with her struggle with journalistic ethics. To maintain a separation of author and subject or to be pulled into the story itself by the brutal reality of watching a child die. Journalists constantly hear that they must maintain distance from their subject in order to report their story accurately but I can’t help but feel an emotional coolness even in this story, which is so painful. I can feel Sugg struggle with her feelings towards this boy and his mother but in the article, Sugg maintains that she kept an appropriate distance and somehow that feels cold to me. In a like this I can’t help but feel that the emotional distance, while appropriate and a proactive defense against an inevitable end, added pain to this little boy’s life. Maybe my inability to separate my emotions from my writing makes me a bad prospective journalist or maybe its watching my sister nearly die in the hospital several times over that makes this story hit so close to home; but whatever it is I can’t deny that this story brought out conflicting emotions.

My little sister (or as I call her my baby girl)

My little sister (or as I call her my baby girl)

            The good: Sugg may have kept her distance from her subject but she forces readers to regard the fact that they will die one day by describing a child’s excruciating deathbed in a sort of emotional 1, 2, punch. The devastation in the wake of this little one’s passing makes the reality of death all the more clear. It has the impact that a news story should have, the brutal reality presented clearly and concisely so that the public can wrestle with the hard questions of life.

The bad: Sugg’s emotional detachment towards a child is chilling. I recognize that she attempted to be professional and only did what was necessary for the child in times when no one else could. But to watch a child die and only do the bare minimum to ease their suffering is callous. That type of professional aloofness, although sometimes necessary, couldn’t have been explained to a child thus leading me to believe she hurt more than she helped with her search for a story.

Its not that stories like these shouldn’t be written, they should, but there must be an ethical middle ground in which a journalist can also be human with all the emotions and pain that entails and not an emotional vulture seeking the pain of a story without embracing it as well.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

The Journalistic Tango

Standard

Journalism is a tango of sorts. Beautiful when danced to perfection, painful to look at when danced out of sync. In this analogy the writer pulls the reader in like dancers pull the judges into the story told by their movements.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com) I understand that these are not people doing the tango but I’ve got limited options on a free stock photo website. 

Like any well-performed tango the communication between reader and writer is often subliminal, dependent upon the journalists ability to appeal to reader’s interests and stay true to their ethics as a writer. Each reader has specific passions that a journalist has an obligation to report on. But that doesn’t mean that journalists have to ignore their own passions. For every journalist’s fascination there are thousands of readers willing and able to voraciously eat up every word. A journalist who writes fairly and produces good work will always have an audience full of hungry readers. However, when a reader discovers their source for news has been feeding them false information, that their trust has been abused; their confidence in any news source is brutally shredded. The bond between reader and writer is just that delicate.

In keeping with the analogy of the tango, there are those who spew false or intentionally misleading information and when the judges (in this case the public) criticize these “news” organizations, they proceed to throw temper tantrums about the ridiculousness of the criticism. In a sense these news organizations are the couple backstage at a dance competition crying and whining about how unfair the judges were rather than owning up to their errors and attempting to rectify them. News isn’t credible because of how loud it’s proclaimed or by how many people its bias appeals to. News is only credible when the audience is presented with the facts, and only the facts, in such a way that they are able to make up their own mind, anything else is brainwashing plain and simple. Unfortunately many people now associate the once shining reputation of journalism with the Bill O’Reillys of the world because they have a platform from which they can scream hate and inaccuracy without suffering the consequences a normal journalist would.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com) Fair warning this is also someone not doing the tango.

That being said, there are times, like in any good dance, where a single misstep can ruin an otherwise perfect execution. Sources act as the partner in the journalistic tango and sometimes their error can destroy the entire story, even though the journalist had no intention of deceiving his or her audience. Famous cases of journalistic error due to source error run roughshod over the otherwise flawless history of journalism. Sources of information are sometimes inaccurate, they almost always deviate from one another and opponents can easily manipulate their credibility if their past is not flawless. This is why journalists have a duty to continuously pursue the truth. A journalist, like any dancer, must err on the side of caution, always expecting their partner’s error, preparing for it in hopes of rectifying it before it ruins the dance.

Printing the Written Word

Standard

While I may rail against the technology that seems to permeate every aspect of daily life, in all honesty I have many technological advances to thank for the comforts I enjoy today. My favorite is the printing press. Yes, I am going all the way back to basics here. I love the printing press because without it I’d have to be a monk to access a library of any consequence. My parents can attest I’d probably be burned at the stake for witchcraft for dressing as a monk just to be near books. To put it simply I love to read. Without the printing press we would probably still be in the Dark Ages, living in small huts, trying to survive on what our benevolent dictator gave us from our hard labor.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

The printing press began the Renaissance, which many credit with the beginnings of our rapid technological advancement. Suddenly everyone had educational opportunities not just the upper class. New ideas could travel swiftly from province to province; revolutions could steadily gain steam and depose cruel autocrats. The printing press essentially gave us the world of comfort we have. And while I may object to some advances in technology, I couldn’t live without my books, which give me worlds to navigate despite sitting in one spot.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

And yet I have another innovation to thank for my favorite pastime: the written word. The beautiful prose and exciting adventures I traverse through in the pages of my favorite books wouldn’t be there if humans had never invented writing. I’d be lying if I said I read classic texts as voraciously as the new dystopian novel but growing up in a Protestant church and school I read the Bible often. While it may not be the oldest manuscript or even the most interesting, it does put an originally oral history into text, which has been passed down through generations. It was my introduction to religious mythology, morality, and sensual poetry. The Bible, like all books, influenced the way I look at the world and, because I insist on learning my lessons the hard way, if I learned all of my values and history from my parents telling stories I probably would not be where I am today. Don’t misunderstand me; my parents are some of the best moral storytellers I know but I have a tendency not to listen, even when it’s in my best interest to do so. Books have a way of showing me the consequences of my actions before I commit them by leading me on a journey with someone I can identify with. Without the written word or the printing press I’d probably get into a lot of trouble on a regular basis but then again the world itself would be in trouble without these inventions.

Modern Friendship: The Reality of Media in Our Relationships

Standard

The Greeks distinguish four separate types of love: agape, philia, eros, and storge. All four are defined differently but they all are based on the love felt in a certain type of relationship. Agapic love is the love between god and person. Philic love is considered that which is between friends and often demonstrated in affection. Erotic love is passionate and sexual. Storgic love is between parent and child. I mention these different types of love because love grows out of relationship but in today’s media obsessed culture where it’s possible to have a thousand “friends”, have our relationships lost their meaning? We can talk to our friends across oceans and mountains but has this level of contact really brought us closer or has it conditioned us to believe a like on Facebook is a fair trade for friendship?

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

To give some perspective one of my best friends lives in Thailand. We’ve known each other for close to 7 years and I can say with absolute surety that we would not be as close as we are today if we weren’t able to stay connected through Facebook. On the other hand, we keep in contact because our friendship is based on more than the occasional Facebook like. In fact we often joke that our friendship is centered on food but that’s a story for another post. Intuitively I can read the sarcasm in his messages and he can read my mood, but I’d argue that if our relationship were based purely in media we wouldn’t know how to read the subtext that reveals our friendship. We are close because we know each other on a cellular level and that’s something that media established relationships simply can’t compete with.

My best friend Key and I, all dressed up with no where to go.

My best friend Key and I. All dressed up with no where to go.

I’m not so arrogant to say that media denigrates the word relationship but it does change it. If everyone on my Facebook page or Twitter feed is my friend then I have to seriously consider my definition of friend. Is it a relationship grounded and grown in love or is it merely a way to show off when I’m having fun and garner sympathy when I’m down and out. I can’t answer this question empirically, therefore, I can’t say whether or not my relationships are made more complex or are deepened by media. What I can say is media helps me to maintain relationships I have already established in the “real world” and for that I am grateful.

The Battle for the Brain: Technology Versus Humanity

Standard

I wake up in the morning to my alarm clock/phone screaming at me to greet the day. I turn over to silence it and immediately check my email to see if any of my professors sent me an 11 p.m. message with a homework assignment for class that day. After checking my email, I transition to Facebook, then the news and so on, all before I get up to shower. What is a little sad about this routine is it’s automatic, no thought process behind it at all.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

Often I think about this conditioned behavior and I desire to unplug completely, to live in the rural mountains far from the technological overload. A part of me worries that I miss what is going on in the periphery as I chase a story all over the Internet. Do I miss the big moments of people I love, simply to chase the little moments of people I have no connection to? As the devil (technological overload) and the angel (time spent purely unconnected) chase each other around in my head, I’m left to wonder if we’re pushing towards a world similar to Wall-E’s. Debates rage on about whether the rewiring of humanity is positive or negative but no one denies that it exists.

I, for one, believe the rewiring has had permanent negative effects on all areas involving relationships. For example, Tinder, among other dating apps, is designed to introduce single people to one another based on geographic location. Besides the irritating shallowness of swiping right or swiping left based on looks, I am continually bombarded by stories about sexual assaults, vitriolic reactions to feminists, general disrespect of women and sexual trafficking, taking place within the app or as a result of setting up a date through the app.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

I am regularly disgusted by predators using the Internet to demean and terrify others because they are protected by anonymity and defended by like-minded deviants across the globe. Our laws are neither current nor stringent enough to prosecute these people and thus the cycle of violence continues. If we truly are pushing towards the world of Wall-E, I am terrified for what this could mean in terms of sex and relationships. In fact I’m terrified for the world in general should we continue to be manipulated by technology and brainwashed by the clever sociopaths who scan the internet looking for malleable followers.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

As someone who is regularly plugged into the world through her phone, I can’t lead the charge of rebellion against technology without being hypocritical, nor can I deny the benefits technology has given the world. What I can do is conscientiously object to the use of technology for perpetrating violence and demand laws that punish the culprits. I can be an advocate changing the way we use technology.