Last week, I interviewed Australian photojournalist, John Rodsted about the 'Legacy of War' and the use of landmines and cluster bombs in warfare. As someone who has worked in post- conflict countries such as Bosnia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Lebanon, John had an stories to share about the damage landmines and cluster bombs do to civilians, even after the fighting has stopped. John's photography led to his involvement in the 'International Campaign to Ban Landmines' which succeeded in creating a Treaty to ban the manufacture, trade, stock pile and use of landmines in conflict and eventually won John and the group a Nobel Peace Prize. John and the ICBL's work should be commended as landmines and cluster bombs are a horrific way of waging a war that only serves to cripple a country trying to recover from conflict. But another interesting debate has arisen from this. Is a journalist's job to report things as they are or, through their work, should they try and change things?
An article was recently featured on TIME's Lightbox blog about the photojournalism non-for-profit, the NURU Project and this issue in particular. The article raised questions about the role of a photojournalist or journalist, for that matter and whether getting involved compromises journalistic values i.e. objectivity. While I don't really subscribe to the idea of objective reporting, I do believe in fairness, accuracy and impartiality and think these are imperative in an age of distrust in the media. While I don't think things are ever reported simply 'as they are' I understand the greater implications this question has for journalistic integrity in a professional and a personal sense.
Personally, I think wanting to be a journalist (in some instances at least) brings with it an inherent desire to not just say, 'the tree is red' but find out how and more importantly why or why not. And therein lies the power of journalism to change things. It may not be in a direct way, but I think there is the hope that if someone sees, reads or hears something that is interesting, confronting or challenging and they react in some way, then journalism has changed things, even on a small scale.
This is what I strive for, even now as a volunteer/student journalist and something I hope I keep striving for because otherwise, I won't be questioning my role as a journalist, but my reasons for wanting to pursue it in the first place.
You can listen to the Panorama segment; 'After the war, the legacy of landmines,' here.