This is the website for the senior-level Journalism Ethics course required of students in the Journalism Minor at the University of San Francisco. We are delighted that non-minors are among us this Fall.
Their emotional detachment from the scene of the crime is very intriguing, to say the least. It’s also the stuff that Hollywood films are made of. I think we tend to glorify violence as a spectacle in both the media and the film industry, somewhat admiring those who can document such horrors without getting too intimately involved. It encourages us, in turn, not to get too intimately involved, freeing us from the burden of actually caring and thus allowing us to analyze the situation from afar. The reporters behave like typical action movie heroes with their emotional aloofness and cold, empirical analysis of the site before them. Only, it’s too late to rescue anyone, so caring seems weak and totally impractical.
Something I like to ask my sources is, “Are you a journalist first and a human being second, or vice versa?” I never get a clear-cut answer.I probably would have called the police in that situation. Then I would have started snapping photos.
Your first point is provocative. Some jobs do require emotional distance, and we do live in a culture where indifference is often seen as strength. That's not who we are, right? But I'm thinking most journalists have had moments concerning which they later second-guessed themselves for standing back and "doing the job," certainly standing back longer than the average citizen would (or should). At minimum, they understand that in some situations, they could have been second-guessed even if they think they didn't deserve it.
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