27 05

WJI 2021, Day 11 PM - A Journalist Has to Choose

A journalist likes to know. Their profession is dependent upon it, after all. Because, in some ways, the news is just knowing things either first or better than anyone else.

At WJI, there's a lot of journalists-in-training who like to know things, too. There's one of us who knows exclamation points are entirely unnecessary; there's twenty-five of us who know to use them sparingly. There's one of us who knows the plot of Mama Mia doesn't make sense; there's another who hasn't seen the movie but knows the music is great enough to make it good.

We think we know things until we don't. We hold the world to work a certain way until someone tells us it doesn't.

Then what?

Yesterday, as part of our daily discussions with WORLD Editor In-Chief Marvin Olasky, we considered the ethical responsibilities of publishing journalism's most famous images. In 1985 in Bakersfield, California, a reporter photographed a family in grief. Their five-year-old boy had drowned. At the bottom of the image, the boy laid dead in a body bag. The boy's mother and brother appeared to be screaming. The father knelt at his son’s body, his head in his hands.

The editors of the local paper knew the image could reduce drownings in the upcoming summer months. We thought the same. We also knew the publishing of a dead body could traumatize those who knew the boy, especially children. These were two truths in their own right. The paper ran the photograph.

That's the difficulty of journalism. The pursuit of the truth isn't so much as finding a needle in a haystack but finding two needles in two haystacks and having to choose between the two needles.

Though our Biblical objectivity helps us navigate the "rapids," as Mr. Olasky puts it, the truth is never handed to us on a silver platter. We have to find it. That's the difficulty, that's the job.

Through it all, though, I am confident in these things:

That the world needs Jesus

That the world needs storytellers

That myself, my twenty-five friends, and my additional instructors are committed to these tasks.

- Sam Landstra