Blog – 28 August, 2013

I just finished reading the article http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/making-sense-of-news/205841/powerful-photo-essay-on-domestic-violence-stirs-backlash/ Kelly McBride. I then browsed then browsed the in-question gallery of photos by Ohio State University Graduate Student Sara Naomi Lewkowicz. My short response to the work, and the controversy that she should have done more goes as follows: First off, lets us just think about the situation itself, from a non-journalistic, things get real in a hurry point of view. I don’t know who these critics are in demanding that (as Lewkowicz points out in her response) a 5’2″, female college student is supposed to do against a violent, mentally unstable, woman-beating felon. It totally preposterous to do anything besides, you know, call the police. Which, you know, she did. Problem solved, I’d like to see what some of those Liam Neeson in “Taken” wannabees would do in that situation if they were somehow place. I hope they have that particular set of skills Liam had, otherwise they’d probably drop the camera and then directly mess their drawers. Yep, that’s probably it… Now, from a journalistic perspective, Lewkowicz did exactly what was needed to fulfill her journalistic obligations. By documenting this instance of domestic violence she armed decent folks everywhere with another tool in fighting domestic violence and creating awareness about it. To go beyond this particular instance and think about the responsibility of journalists as a whole when it pertains to taking preventing something bad in the moment or having clarity to pursue a greater purpose through their work. To understand that by recording these events they will reach a mass audience and imbibe them with one of the greatest and most dangerous weapons known to the human race, information. Let’s take these photos for instance; the first http://www.lynseyaddario.com/#/afghanistan/korengal-valley/1afghan1000006004 taken in 2007 by photojournalist Lynsey Addario while embedded with American soldiers in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. It show soldiers of the 173d Airborne carrying the body of fallen Staff Sergeant Larry Rougle after an intense battle that claimed the life of SSG Rougle and wounded two other Americans. So what was Addario to do in this instance? Should she have grabbed a weapon and pulled security in this obviously dangerous situation? Should she have lended a hand to the painfully fatigued soldiers in the carrying of their just fallen friend down a mountain? In my opinion Addario fulfilled exactly what her journalistic purpose was in burdening these soldiers with her presence in the first place. That purpose is to document that combat is stained with dirt and sweat, that men are capable of breaching through moments in which their bodies scream for them to collapse. That the body of a dead soldier has a specific weight and mass, and at any given time it takes six grown men under incredible strain to carry that body. That this all happening in real life, that it was happening in a war that most of the world had forgotten about. Addario documented that war is real for many people that were unable to conceive of it before, that is an important thing. The second photo, http://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/vulture-stalking-a-child/ taken in 1993 during a famine in Sudan by photojournalist Kevin Carter. It depicts a starving child being approached by a vulture. Carter won a Pulitzer Prize for this photo and did a lot to create a discussion about hunger and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. He also took a lot of criticism for this photo, people demanded that he should have done something to help this child. The reality of the situation is that there probably wasn’t a lot Carter could do for this child aside from chasing away the vulture (which he claims he eventually did). By taking this photo, Carter probably affected the lives of thousands if not millions of children suffering from famine and poverty around the world. He created awareness, he spurred action. So in closing, in my opinion journalism is not an industry for the short-sighted, the work of good journalism can resonate to people around the world and affect change. Reacting in a moment may improve that moment, but how many more those moments will be allowed to take place unnoticed because of it? Like I said before, information is the greatest weapon known to mankind. It just takes proper clarity of thinking and courage to be able to wield it and wield it affectively.

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