Journalism ethics around tragedy

When tragedy strikes, whether it be natural disasters, wars, abuse or bombings, it still tugs at your heart strings as a human but more importantly for the journalists who cover these stories.

The two bombings which exploded after the Boston marathon in America had been extremely tragic to read and see, even million of miles away from where it happened.

Boston Bombings aftermath

Boston Bombings aftermath

The issue of ethics: media ethics and journalism ethics is something me and my fellow journalists debated extensively in our class with Franz Kruger.In such disastrous circumstances do you as a journalist put your humanity first or your job as a journalist first? Personally, I would think if you are sent out on a story, you need to put your emotions aside and do what is required of you and get the story or photo. However, after thinking about this to great extents I realised that I could sound like a heartless human being.

For example: the xenophobic attacks in South Africa a few years ago. If I was presented with a person being burned to death in front of me, honestly I do not know how I could bring myself to [in this situation] put my feelings aside and be professional enough to get the story my editor expects of me.

I did get clarity after speaking to my mentor today, Archie Henderson about the difficulties which surround this ethical issue journalists’ face. He spoke about correct judgement.

Archie explained that if you are the only person on the scene and there is no one else in the vicinity to help the victim then you should jump in and help and still be able to tell the story afterwards. However, if you are not a single person team on the story and there are officials in place to help them you should get the photo, the story, the scene first, then if needed, offer assistance.

Conclusively, I think that there is a fine line in such situations and you as a journalist will know what to do when you are in the situation. The important thing is to know when to draw the line of letting the story affect you and being unable to do your job.


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