In our day to day lives we are constantly faced with stories of tragedy and devastation from all around the world. We hear about them on the radio, we watch them on the news and we read them on the internet and in newspapers. We are incessantly bombarded by story after story and tragedy after tragedy, so much so that we as a society have become utterly desensitized. We forget that the “man caught in crossfire” is someone’s son and father and brother. We forget that the “woman stabbed to death in parking garage” is someone’s wife and mother and daughter. We forget that these stories and articles are about real people, people who have friends and family who love and care about them, loved ones that are shattered by despair in losing them. It becomes so easy to forget, to become numb to the continuous devastation we are faced with. However sometimes we need to put a face to the name, in order to remind people. We owe our fellow human beings that much don’t we? Not to let them die as the “man fatally shot”, but to give them an identity.
As journalists we are constantly criticized for our choices when it comes to the stories we publish, the quotes we use and the photos we release. Many think of us as insensitive and heartless, that we’ll stop at nothing to get a story. And for some that may be true, however as journalists it is our job to bring people the news both truthfully and promptly and also give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. Many of our decisions are based on these principles. With that being said, what may seem to some as inconsiderate, to us it is simply what needs to be seen or heard. We owe it both to the public and the victims of tragedy.
Take for instance the Alan Kurdi photograph, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who was found by a soldier, dead, face down washed up on the shore. This little boy became the face of the Syrian refugee crisis. This photograph resinated with people in a way that other articles and photos had not. The heart-shattering catastrophe captured in this photograph is both disturbing and astounding. This young boy inspired people to do their best to help refugees, to educate themselves on what is going on in other parts of the world and most importantly, this boy gave an identity to the Syrian refugees. They were no longer mere news articles, but real people. People with lives and families, who had feelings and emotions, people in dire need of help. This photo was published on the front cover of newspapers all over the country, and all though many criticized this decision, saying it was done in bad taste, the fact of the matter is, our society needed to be faced with something that real and that devastating. They needed to be faced with this photograph to truly comprehend that these horrific events are happening to real people around the world.
When faced with tragedy we owe it to the victims and our society as a whole to empathize and ensure we are all informed and aware. This is how we will put an end to these events, by putting an end to ignorance.