Roles and responsibilities of the media

There are two important points that need to be reiterated.

First, as I stressed many times before, journalists must not mislead.

Next, we need to remember why we need photojournalists.

The role of the media is to inform the public, to share accurate information and more importantly, the truth.

The four fake Asiana Air pilot names should never have been broadcast.

A summer intern working at the National Transportation Safety Board was blamed for this fiasco.

Intern or not, this problem shows that there needs to be better communication between government agencies and the media.

I previously wrote in Why Media Literacy Matters – Times of Crisis:

Media involvement in the emergency management process can help minimize misunderstanding. The goal is after all, to provide the public with accurate information as quickly as possible. Media agencies are great at doing that.

This means that journalists and government agencies need to work together and establish positive mutual working relationships. However, it is important to note that journalists are not the only source of media.

Another news organization recently got rid of its entire photography staff.

According to Jim Romenesko, Michael Gebhart, the chief executive of Southern Community Newspapers (in Georgia) wrote in an email, “How many photographers need dark room skills to develop film and make prints?”

Like many other professional photographers, I have not used a darkroom in a very long time. With the advancement of technology and digital cameras, no one really needs a darkroom anymore.

Gebhart obviously does not understand the importance of professional photographers.

Photography is a powerful tool and a universal language that can be used to inform the public and share with them the truth about what is going on in the world around them.

I previously stressed that reporting and photography require different levels of training and understanding.

I wrote in Importance of professional photographers, Part II:

So does having a blog make you a journalist? Does having a professional camera make you a photographer?

Anyone is capable of taking a snapshot or writing an article but the answer to both questions is no. They might possess the tools and equipment but that does not mean they have the technical expertise to do the job.

They are different forms of storytelling and we need them both.

Reporters and photographers are different types of storytellers and neither is more important than the other.

But one thing is for certain, as journalists they are responsible for telling the truth.

The media needs to remind themselves that people need to be informed, not misled.

Importance of professional photographers

Earlier this week, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo said in a press conference, “there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.”

As Jim Colton expressed on his blog, this is an insult to all professional photographers (and photojournalists).

The average person might have access to the same tools and social media makes it easy to share photographs.

But there are major differences between a professional photographer and the average citizen or so-called citizen journalist.

Professional photographers are willing to risk their lives in order to do their jobs as evident in recent crisis situations such as the Boston Marathon bombing and the tornado that struck Oklahoma City.

Chicago Tribune photographer Alex Garcia wrote on his blog:

When spectators with cameras were fleeing, they headed towards the madness of the explosion. [Boston Globe photojournalist John] Tlumacki took his iconic picture just 15 seconds after the first explosion.

Garcia explains that news photographers have a unique mission to share and bear witness unlike the casual observer with a camera.

Journalists have a responsibility to inform the public and to not mislead them.

In previous posts, I discussed the importance of ethics and the role that journalists (photojournalists) play, especially during times of crisis.

In addition, news photographers are expected to abide by a code of ethics.

As I wrote  in Why Media Literacy Matters – Quality journalism and ethics:

To ensure that photojournalists do not alter photographs or report stories that deceive the public, news organizations and the NPPA have established codes of ethics that they must abide by. Credibility is the greatest asset of journalists. It is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way (electronically or in the darkroom) that deceives the public. The preamble of the NPPA Code of Ethics states that photographs can cause great harm if they are manipulated.

Another difference between the professional and the average citizen is that professionals are trained to do their jobs.

 

Role of media during times of crisis

As Bill Mitchell explained, rather than focusing on the stories to tell, the media needs to focus on “What can we do?”

The first thing that the media needs to do is remind themselves – People need to be informed, not misled.

In my previous blog, Why Media Literacy Matters – Times of Crisis, I wrote that during emergency situations, spreading accurate information to the public is crucial.

Since the media plays a major role (usually the primary role) as a source of information for the public, it is crucial for the media to work with emergency management agencies during emergency situations.

Mitchell talks about how social media pages are used to help people connect with others and share information.

In Why Media Literacy Matters – Times of Crisis, I mentioned that the average person also plays an important role in disseminating media messages.

Social media makes it easy to communicate and share information with others.

I wrote in Media Literacy and Social Support:

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are powerful communications tools that can be used to help people in the aftermath of a disaster.

The ability to connect and instantly share information with other people is what makes social media a valuable tool. With social media, people can reach out to those in need and make a difference.

An important lesson that even the average person needs to learn is – Do not mislead.

In order to help others, accurate information needs to be shared.

It is also especially important to work together.