Unlike my other posts, I have no image to go with this post but I thought it was important to provide some of my reflections, as a new (still in school) photojournalist, on the new year just starting.
In the last two weeks, a number of events have caused me to pause and reflect on my new chosen profession of photojournalism. Even though I initially chose this new career as a way to develop my love of photography, I have discovered the rewards of communicating stories and news to bring light to issues.
In the last week of 2020 we started learning about the many Canadian politicians who, despite the pandemic and their own rhetoric about the virtues of making sacrifices for the good of all, opted to travel abroad for non-essential purposes. My intention is not to condemn or justify individual cases as I do not pretend to have enough information on each of them, but rather to express my deep disappointment in the demonstration of poor leadership and judgment on their part. None of them broke the law, but they have broken the trust that we have put in them and there is no question in my mind that they should be held to higher standards, just like police officers or military members or anyone else put in positions of leadership and trust should. I am grateful to the media for exposing these actions. As we learned more about individual cases, it became clear that for many, not only did they know that what they were doing was against the public health guidelines and principles espoused by their governments, but also that they tried to deceive their constituents by pretending to be standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of us. I am proud to point out that thanks to the courage of journalists these actions have been brought to our attention. How these irresponsible actions are dealt with in the medium and long term will depend on how the media continues to remind us, as constituents and voters, about the lack of values and integrity of these individuals.
Then on January 6, as most of you I’m sure, I was glued to the television watching the events in Washington, DC. It reminded me of the events of 9/11 almost 20 years ago when the “bastion of democracy” was attacked by external actors. That event in 2001 rallied the citizens of the USA against a common enemy, much like the events of December 7, 1941 in Pearl Harbor galvanized the nation to rise. But the events of yesterday were different as they demonstrated what has now become such partisan politics in the USA and has in fact significantly damaged that reputation as the “bastion of democracy” rather than reinforce it. I have been able to experience this significant event through my newly gained expertise in photojournalism. As I normally try to do, I watched the events through a number of media outlets to try to offset any biases that are always present to some degree. It was interesting to watch the live coverage of the events on both CNN and Fox News. While seeing some of the same images, it became clear very quickly how each of these outlets covered the events to emphasize their own bias. I certainly found the coverage by the Canadian media more balanced and honest while my personal preference was to watch BBC World News as they put a much better international perspective of the effects of these events. BBC also provided much useful insight on how the events in DC were perceived, and sometimes twisted for their own purposes, by other world leaders and international media outlets. This certainly highlighted for me the importance of watching many sources of information to help decipher the various biases in each of them, which in turn allows me to make better informed assessments. But more importantly, it also emphasized the importance of ethical standards in journalism.
I’m thankful for our freedom of expression in this country and more importantly for the fact that we are able to discuss and debate our individual points of view in an honest and fair way while respecting each other’s point of view.
Happy New Year 2021 everyone!