Sunday, September 13, 2009

Are You a Mirror or a Puppet?

FIRST OFF, LET me say that this post is not about politics. As journalists, we neither support nor attack politicians and/ or their policies. We simply report what we learn.

My question to you is this: is it responsible to publish the image on the right? It was taken by the Associated Press and run in various outlets, including the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The image was created at an Obama health care plan protest in Washington, DC on Saturday. The event was sponsored by the conservative Tea Party Patriots and hyped by conservative talk show hosts like Glenn Beck.

Should journalists refrain from showing disrespectful protest signs? Should the media report what people say, even if their comments are incorrect and inflammatory? For instance, Bloomberg News reported this:

Jeremy Batterson, 40, from Baltimore passed out pamphlets with a picture of Obama sprouting a Hitler-like mustache. He said Obama was trying to insert a provision into the health-care bill to perform euthanasia on the terminally ill and senior citizens.

“He’s insisting we do the same thing here to reduce health-care costs and we have to stop him,” Batterson said.

It's what the man said, but what the man said has been denied repeatedly by the president. So, do you run it? Do you balance it by repeating the president's denials?

Can you separate your politics from your reporting in a story like this?


Nancy Arroyo said...

It is a journalist job to report the news no matter how disrespectful it is. They have to show both sides to a story so any image that goes along with the story should be printed. As for what people say, it also should be printed. People are interested in the whole story, not just part of it. So the opinions of the ones interviewed must be printed along side the image.

As for the Batterson issue, I think the story should run. And what the president said should also be printed just so legal problems don't occur.

And it's a journalist duty to separate their opinions with their stories, unless it is a personal blog of some sort.

Lumpy said...

I agree with Nancy. I think that journalists should publish all sides to a topic, especially on one as controversial as healthcare reform.

Rosella Eleanor LaFevre said...

I agree with Nancy as well. I won't lie. When I saw the image, I was disgusted by the comparison of our president and Hitler. But then I thought, no, as journalists we need to publish this sort of thing. If not only to show two sides of the issue (which we should do by also presenting the president's replies to such allegations) but also to--and maybe I'm just being optimistic here--spark a debate about the ignorance that plagues politics. In a good world, this is what said images and stories would do...

Geo said...

So, do the journalists mirror society - reflecting whatever the people in front of the journalists offer?

Is there a danger in being used by fringe groups who use flashy imagery and colorful language to cause a stir?

Should the journalists filter the messages if the message is misleading?

If you look at some of the other news stories (click the blue words in the story), you'll find that most of the other publications did not use the misleading/ incorrect statements. Are they censoring the people? Or are they just blowing off the blowhards?

- George
(the teacher who hates when people scream, thinking that makes them effective)

Aleks Molnar said...

As much as I'm for showing all sides of a story, something like this as an ethics background with it as much as it hugs politics. Printing a picture of President Obama with an Adolf Hitler-like moustache isn't merely a political statement, but reflects America as a whole. The Right to Free Speech aside, there's a point where protest becomes obscene. This, to me, is one example of going a step too far. Hand out fliers and make your soapbox speeches all you want, but when you degrade America's highest office by comparing him to (arguably) the biggest mass murderer in history, you're not only attacking on a personal level, but you're attacking America as a country and possibly separating the people.

Again, there are two sides to every story. But occasionally one side is just too obnoxious to be considered viable material. There are other ways of proving your point other than mirroring our President's image with Hitler.

Don Hoegg said...

The picture should have been printed. In a democracy, others' opinions, ignorant and uninformed though they may be, have consequences on the rest of the electorate. With citizen journalism, the pictures would have been circulated anyway, but without the insight of non-morons to explain the absurdities of such comparisons.

That being said, the point of publicizing such images/opinions should be to critique the soundness (or in the case the lunacy) of the claims.

Which brings me to this paragraph

"Jeremy Batterson, 40, from Baltimore passed out pamphlets with a picture of Obama sprouting a Hitler-like mustache. He said Obama was trying to insert a provision into the health-care bill to perform euthanasia on the terminally ill and senior citizens."

Something like this shouldn't be treated as an informed or accurate assessment. My problem is that the writer doesn't seem to address the claims the man is saying at all, but rather treats it as a valid point.

Don Hoegg said...

And to amend the above, I'll paraphrase Paul Krugman:

Objectivity should not be confused with even-handedness

Jacki Boone said...

As shocking as the image is, I think that it would be acceptable for a journalist to publish it. It's important, though, for the reputation of the newspaper, that the journalist make it clear that the picture does not reflect the opinion of the newspaper or its editors.

NewsNut said...

I would have to answer no. It is not appropriate for the news to use images such as this because it doesn't offer news it offers only the same outcome as propaganda. This one particular image implies much more than the article itself can say or not say. Such propaganda is very powerful thus even more dangerous in politics via mass media. Its provocative and misleading and offensive in content. I think from either, the left or right, such use of imagery and emotion is wrong.

Lisa Jiang said...

I don't see anything wrong with using that quote. People should hear what each side has to say, no matter how bad or disrespectful it sounds. I think the public should be the judge of that. It would be better if they added that Obama had denied what he said, because then the public could hear all sides of the story.

Megan said...

I think it is relevant to the people, but journalists need to be careful how they run stories. If they are publishing pictures like this of President Obama, and then "siding" with those who created the photo, it would seem that they would be taking sides. A journalist job, though difficult, is to be as unbias as humanly possible. So it all depends on the story they write.

Sam Thomas said...

The story absolutely should have run. No matter how offensive the picture is it is news and deserves to be printed. As for the quote included in the story, it is important that a reporter make it clear that this is the opinion of a likely under informed fringe member of a political group. The quote is overly simplistic and does not accurately reflect the language in the bill(s) being considered by Congress. It is very important that journalists do not pass on (misinformed) opinions as facts, and either present actual facts or encourage consumers to seek out the facts.

Journalist should report on what is happening around them, whether its out there and widely known or if they have to dig up the story, but that is what they are paid to do.

Wafai Dias said...

I think that as a journalist you should inform people that some think of the president as Hitler. It's alarming but then again they do have freedom of speech. The thing journalist can do also is to fully investigate the bill so that they can quiet the the Hitler goers with hard core proof about the bill.

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