Anyone who knows me, knows how big I am on information access. Yesterday I covered an Oxfam/FP event at the Newseum – the latest addition to D.C.’s museums, and the most interactive. My editor told me what a big deal it was, but I didn’t get it. Until I got there! The place is massive, with interactive screens for learning about the most important news in human history, the progression of media through the ages etc. I was soo giddy with excitement, I couldn’t decide what to look at first. For those of you in D.C., def head up to the Newseum! It’s amaaaazing!
Information Access & Documentation
I eventually did a quick run through of the entire place, and I loved every bit of it. It made me appreciate information access even more, and I’m even more impassioned to help improve information access in Ghana and Africa as a whole. We need to document our histories, it holds the key to understanding (or trying to) humanity better. We need more movies on historic, progressive African leaders and societies, instead of just the cliches. It’s great that they did a movie on Iddi Amin, so we understand how failed states and leaders come about, but seriously? Why not start with Nkrumah, Senghor and the others?
Furthermore, it made me realize the fact that history is always in the making. That’s right, every second of every minute, of every hour of every day. Right this moment, history is being made!
A Question of Ethics
Some of the interactive features that the Newseum (i love the name!) has included a couple of games to test one’s knowledge of journalism — and as it turns out, ethics. It’s crazy how ethics is a big part of journalism. For instance:
>>”If your friend or family member begged you not to report his drunk-driving escapade in the newspaper, would you remove that news piece from your paper?” – The “right” answer is No. [Journalism shouldn’t be compromised by family and friends. If it’s relevant to a story piece, you go for it. The whole thing about the independence of the media.]
>>”At the high school prom, students fell ill after consuming punch that was apparently mixed with soap. The principal says there isn’t a health scare. Would you report the story?” The correct answer is Yes. Public Safety should be priority. It’s a journalist’s duty to inform. [Also comes down to not allowing people in positions of “power” to compromise the media. The media helps make democracy possible by helping reduce corruption and promoting transparency and accountability.]
Then there was this other section with regards to photo journalism. For some reason, I found those questions harder to answer. Maybe because it’s easier to retract a news statement by publishing a correction, but harder to take away the imprint of an image from people’s minds? I don’t know. Anyways, here are some of the questions:
>> “Would pretend to be mentally insane in order to report on conditions in mental hospitals.?”
>> “Would you sneak a camera into a death chamber and take a photo of an execution by legal order (death sentence) being carried out?”
Perhaps the most poignant one had to do with famine in Sudan. A starved child crawls to a UN food base and a hungry vulture is slowly pursuing the child. Would you take the photo or pick up the child?
I hesitated in answering that question. Questions like that have no right or wrong answer. It comes down to personal decision-making and ethics. Some of the thoughts that ran through my head while thinking about the question:
If I take the photo, what will happen to the child? I would have missed a chance to help at least one of the possible famine victims. On the other hand, if I don’t take the photo and save the child instead, then what about the millions of other children in similar situations? If the photo doesn’t get published, how will they even get more food aid, much less have a chance of survival? I didn’t come to a definite answer. What would you guys do???
Here’s what some people (general public + journalists) said they’d do, and here’s what happened with the journalist who actually took the photo.