Anderson Cooper saving a boy in Haiti during a shooting. A slab of concrete was dropped of the boys head.

Anderson fucking Cooper, everyone. 

Some journalists like to be strictly observers. they don’t intervene, they don’t participate. they just document what they see, even if what they see is terrible. But the way I see it, journalists don’t exist in a vacuum. They are human beings, living and working in a very human environment. And that humanity is essential in relating to their stories. When you lose your humanity, you lose any kind of journalistic integrity you have left. 


this is the guy who found out one of his ancestors was killed by one of his slaves and was like “he had it coming”

Every now and then I run across this post, and every time I do, I feel the need to say something, especially since @flowers-without-reason felt the need to speak on behalf of a massive career field that he/she is not part of.

It’s really easy as a bystander to pass judgment on how/why journalists do things. I will not presume to speak on behalf of all journalists, but I was one and I can explain the “strictly observer” thing from at least one perspective.

You see, any time you are not actively observing – ie, taking photos/videos/recording observations – you are missing the story. When you miss the story, you miss the opportunity to tell the story. 

Since we live in the digital age, it’s easy to forget that 1) we didn’t always have the ability to record, transmit, and view information across the globe instantaneously, and 2) not everyone has access to that utility now. 

In 1992, James Nachtwey took this photo:

Because he took this photo (among the other equally horrifying and heartbreaking images he brought back from Somalia) and it was published to a large Western audience in the New York Times, The Red Cross received the largest influx of donor aid since WWII, and they were able to save 1.5 million people. Representatives from The Red Cross have directly cited the Nachtwey photos as inspiring that flood of help. 

These photos helped save more than a million lives. 

It is easy as a bystander – someone who isn’t a journalist, who probably hasn’t been in a war or famine zone – to make sweeping judgments about what journalists should or shouldn’t be doing.

Like this photo from the Sudan by Kevin Carter:

Hundreds of people contacted the paper questioning whether the little girl had survived to which the paper responded through an unusual editor’s note saying that the girl garnered enough strength to walk away from the vulture but her ultimate fate was not known. It was a rule for the journalists in Sudan not to touch victims of the famine, to avoid the risk of transmitting diseases. Carter though came under a lot of criticism for not assisting the girl. The St. Petersburg Times wrote this about him: “The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene.

He chased the vulture away after taking this photo. Note that journalists in the Sudan were not supposed to touch the famine victims to avoid the risk of transmitting disease. 

You’ll be pleased to know he committed suicide in 1994, shortly after winning a Pulitzer for this photo, leaving behind a note that talked about the horrors he saw and photographed. 

“I am depressed … without phone … money for rent … money for child support … money for debts … money!!! … I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners…I have gone to join Ken if I am that lucky.”

Now that we just blissfully assume everyone has both a smartphone and access to unrestricted internet, I guess it’s safe to feel critical of the people still putting themselves in the trenches to tell these stories.

These people told stories, and they are continuing to tell stories, that need to be told. We talk about silencing and rewriting history, then criticize the people trying to document it. 

When people talk about immigration and refugees, you can show them this picture of the actual human beings sent to their deaths when we turned away the St Louis:

If you want to talk about the violent militarization of law enforcement, you can show someone this photo from the Kent State shootings:

Or maybe the horrific futility of war:

Or maybe the impossible way we connect with each other:

Or you want to showcase dignity:

And bravery:

I won’t disagree that “when you lose your humanity, you lose your journalistic integrity,” but I will disagree that intervention is a key component to maintaining journalistic integrity. 

Journalistic integrity is telling an authentic story. 

The social justice corner of Tumblr often discusses what one person can do to make a difference in the world, yet posts like this get 700,000+ reblogs crapping all over one of those things a single person can do to make a difference. 

Net neutrality in the US is on the chopping block and states are debating the ethics of lying in history text books. I’d dare say that the journalists who are out there documenting the world as it exists are doing a job that is as important today as it was in WWII when a single photo from Iwo Jima helped turn the tide of the Pacific campaign. 

We’re in a time and place where filming police officers in public is an arrestable offense. So yeah, documenting is an act of intervention and resistance. It’s you saying, “I am not going to let anything stop me from telling the truth.”