MetaMedia: Photogs’ duty to public

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A civil rights demonstrator is attacked by a police dog May 3, 1963 at Birmingham, Ala. Photographers must remain observers to accurately document the news.  AccuNet/AP

A civil rights demonstrator is attacked by a police dog May 3, 1963 at Birmingham, Ala. Photographers must remain observers to accurately document the news. AccuNet/AP

As photojournalists, it is tough at times to keep personal feelings about the events we cover to ourselves, but it is vital to reveal the images of an event to inform the public.

A photojournalist’s duty is to keep the public apprised of the doings of the government and business so they can make intelligent decisions.

Their job as observers is to document the news, not to prevent it or change it. Like an anthropologist who observes other cultures, photographers just look and record without disturbing what is going on.

Information can change public policy, laws or just prevent more accidents from happening, like taking a picture of a family in grief for the loss of a child. It can be painful for the family, but in the end, it can save lives by making parents more cautious.

Regardless of the circumstances or the person, the journalistic ethics standards share some basic principles: truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, fairness and accountability.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said to photographer Flip Schulke as he stopped Schulke from helping to rescue children from being beaten by cops:

“The world doesn’t know this happened because you didn’t photograph it,” King said.

“I’m not being coldblooded about it, but it is so much more important for you to take a picture of us getting beaten up.”

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