Saturday, April 09, 2005

Objectivity Without Subjectivity?

When we have troops in combat, I find the idea of American journalists (or those working for American networks) acting as neutral observers in this conflict to be absurd. Many Americans were adamantly opposed to the deployment of U.S. troops to the European conflict in World War II, especially since it would only leave a remnant of our forces to pursue those that actually attacked us in the Pacific. However, most of the journalists reporting for American outlets during that time seem to recognize they were Americans first, then objective journalists second.

The reports of a CBS cameraman being wounded, then detained on suspicion of rebel activity by U.S. forces in Iraq illustrate the futility of so-called non-subjective reporting. It appears the CBS cameraman had video of multiple road-side bomb attacks against U.S. forces on his camera, suggesting that he knew in advance where and when these attacks were going to take place. The first question that comes to my mind is how much of this type of video is lying on the cutting room floor over at CBS News? I guess we'll address that later.

This news controversy comes on the heels of the recent Pulitzer Prize winning AP photo of Iraqi insurgents assassinating Iraqi election workers on Haifa Street.

Let's assume for a moment the AP photographer was miraculously in the right place at the right time by happenstance. Fortunately, the AP dispels any concerns we may have about the remarkable luck and timing of the photographer with the following snippet:

How did the photographer come to be in one of the most dangerous parts of one of the most dangerous streets in Baghdad at this particular time? He had been tipped by another journalist that "something happened on Haifa Street." Immediately he headed out the door for a car trip to Haifa Street. He found a burning car and photographed it about 300 meters from what would later turn out to be the execution scene.

Did that other journalist happen to work for CBS? Ok, I'll let that one pass because Richard Alexander of the Views From Right blog claims to have an email from Jack Stokes answering questions about the AP photograph and the work of their journalists in Iraq. Here is the most interesting part of the email, in my opinion:

Several brave Iraq photographers work for AP in places that only Iraq's can cover. Many are covering the communities they live in. Where family and tribal relations give them access that would not be available to Western photographers or even photographers who were not from that area.

Insurgents want there stories told as much as other people and some are willing to let Iraq photographers take their pictures. It is important to note that the photographers are not "embedded" with the insurgents. They do not have to swear allegiance or other wise join up philosophically with them just to take their pictures.

When does the lack of subjectivity become indifference to the deaths of other human beings? I know this is a question that has long been debated in the U.S. media and has even led to the old journalism question about filming someone drowning. Of course, I couldn't possibly address all the questions and plumb the depths of this issue in a single blog entry, but is it not right that American journalists (e.g. working for CBS) should first be American, then apply subjectivity only after that? What kind of American journalist could unemotionally film the defeat of the American military and the deaths of American soldiers?


Blogger Richard said...

the Media is burying this story. Can you beleive they won a Pulitzer Prize
fo the Murder on Haifa Street. The Big Pharaoh
at "hello from the land of the Pharoah" has great
blog today.

5:47 AM  

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