Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Blurred Lines

T.L. Schilling

When does it become acceptable to become involved with the story you, as a journalist, are trying to tell? How involved is too involved?

Should the media show diversity or be color blind?

What happens when you lose that “objectivity” that every story needs in order to be told accurately and fairly? Is it when “the” story becomes “our” story?”

Do press credentials give people the right to work outside the law?


                                                     Courtesy of Joe Raedle, Getty Images

The above picture is that of Getty photographer Scott Olsen after being placed under arrest and being led into a police vehicle while in Ferguson, Missouri reporting on the riots during 2014. According to an article from the USA Today, Scott says “I’m being arrested because they said the media is required to be in a certain area.” I find it somewhat odd that all over social media you see where the police are scorned for, in this particular case, restricting the freedom of the press. I did not see where Mr. Olsen ever denied being outside of what he described as this “certain” area. Was there a certain area so people were safe? Was there a certain area for media to stay in so the police could do their job?

Aren’t all journalists governed by ethical codes of conducts that they must abide by? The following points are taken from the SPJ Code of Ethics and appear to not be completely adhered to by Mr. Olsen:

Seek Truth and Report it:

  •     Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.

  •     Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.

Be Accountable and Transparent:

  •    Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

In reading the article about Scott’s story, I feel that just by what he said about being arrested, he is perhaps misrepresenting the context of the ordeal. I don’t remember seeing any other pictures of people smiling while being arrested. That to me seems like he is oversimplifying the situation and that a he may have pushed the boundaries a little too far.  

If you listen, you hear conservatives and liberals, men and women, old and young say that the media only shows you want they want you to see, want you to hear. Have the lines of journalism become so blurred that the court of public opinion may be right on this matter. Are journalists becoming too involved with their stories that the truth gets misrepresented, oversimplified, or taken out of context?

Throughout history, people have been telling stories of injustices, suffering and hardships. Nations have fallen and journalists were there to tell the stories. Unless you are actually where the story is happening and are witness to all of the events as they unfold, you rely on others to tell the story to you. Journalists are supposed to be the voice for those who cannot be heard and should abide by the same high standards to which they hold others. My thought on that one would be to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
So I ask you, are journalists intentionally blurring the lines between what is ethical and what is their First Amendment right or do we the people have the blurry vision?

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