Tuesday, August 29, 2006

missing the heart of the problem

After 3 years of studying in the School of Communication and Information, I have lost my idealism in the line of work which I have been preparing myself academically for. It may have been because I had a rather ridiculous self-imposed ideal of journalism, objectivity and the search for truth – that here was something more than a trade – but rather a profession whose primary duty was to bind the human conscience and make us accountable for ourselves – from the most noble to the most depraved of deeds ever done with human hands.

But is my work truly making a difference? Are the business needs of pandering to the audience as espoused in the news values of proximity, relevance, human interest pushing aside the things that we ought to cover? And timeliness – that everything ought to be taken merely as a fleeting glance in the public eye – that people grow bored and tired of focusing on the same things and seek solace in finding some new distraction… is modern society’s greatest evil and we help to maintain it.

We come, we film the carnage or the disaster, we show it to the world, they get a knee-jerk reaction, they send help, it dies down and things go back to the way they were.

We failed to address the root of the problem.

Corrupt governments remain. Regimes that suppress human rights stay propped up. Economic poverty stays. Curtails on freedom continue.

We need political intervention and change of policy!

When we select our representatives in government we always ask: what’s in it for us?

Few ‘modern first-world’ governments dare risk the political capital and potential economic drawbacks of giving up their hold and positions of privilege in order to pursue principles of ensuring the well-being of their fellows around them. Can we blame them? They hold the values we hold.

I’m not saying advocacy journalism is futile. It is noble and has produced much fruit and those who believe whole-heartedly in a duty to document and record events ought to carry on their good work. Its immediacy and impact to shock the public conscience is unprecedented in our modern age. I’m just saying that, while it has a potential and does make a difference – the human conscience can still be numbed, distracted, and swayed and selfishness can still prevail and when that happens we ourselves risk being voyeuristic spectators to inhumanity and the newsmen and news companies exploiters of our fellow man’s misery.

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