Journalist, Citizen, or Both?

Most of our journalism classes pose this question along with, “if you were the editor or news director would you publish so and so?” This is a repeated topic and an ongoing conversation that you will hear in just about all journalism classes in the JSchool.

Are you a journalist who only observes or a citizen who is obligated to take action?

Here are some photos that were discussed in my journalism classes:

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Now for each of these photos, when do you determine your roll of journalist or human being/citizen?

In all four photos the likelihood of identifying the subject is possible. As news director, would you air the footage of a high school boy falling out the window, during the Columbine shooting of 1999, when parents would be able to identify their child?

Or as a photojournalist, would you take 20 minutes to set up your camera when a hungry vulture takes eye of child incapable of helping his or herself rather than scare the vulture away to save the child?

The photographer of this picture, Kevin Carter, went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for this piece and three months later committed suicide.

Would a reporter sit in the back of a car and snap photos of a teenager texting while driving and his friend steering the wheel or would the reporter speak up?

These are the kinds of ethical questions are reporters, editors, news directors, and journalists are faced with everyday.

These are the kind of questions the JSchool asks the students. What is your role? What comes first? Which pair of eyes are looking out? Are you a reporter reporting on the happenings of the tragedy at Columbine High School or are you the neighbor of Patrick Ireland, who you just recorded on video falling out of the window into the arms of police officers?

Knowing your role is a critical aspect in reporting.


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