Observe, don't engage???
Several years ago, one of our fabulous DC museums was doing a special exhibit/display on the photographs of Pulitzer Prize winners over the years. It was one of the most incredible exhibits I'd been to. There was one amazing photo after another. There were descriptions about the context for the photos and sometimes a report on how the photo affected the photographer's life. The one that stood out the most for me was one shot in Sudan during a famine with a child dying of starvation and a vulture waiting nearby.
At the time, the photographer, Kevin Carter, did nothing to help the little girl. He shot the girl and walked away. Later in life he committed suicide because of this. He received so much backlash for not helping the girl. He didn't help because of an ongoing policy amoung reporters that they should not engage with their story.
The Christian Science Monitor had an interesting article about this topic, Western reporters in Africa struggle over when to help. It talks about this traditional tenet of journalism, "Observe, don't engage." Many Western reporters, especially when traveling to very poor areas like countries in Africa, are now struggling whether this policy makes sense. The article quotes a journalism ethics leader, Kelly McBride who says:
"If you operate under real strict boundaries that you absolutely can't help anyone, you create this crisis of conscience that will drive good reporters from the business," she says, adding, "I don't think you have to separate being human from being a reporter."
I found this article very thought provoking. I have heard similar dilemmas occurring with development workers. Do you loan or give money to people you work or interact with while serving in a developing country or will that open a can of worms that leads to everyone asking you for loans? Does that matter? What is our responsibility as people of great wealth (comparatively)? These are just questions that I think are really interesting and have different answers for different people. I enjoyed reading about the debate within the journalism world.
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