Saturday, February 28, 2009

Seeing Ourselves Through Another's Eyes

This past week, Anne Garrels, a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, came to Mizzou. Because I currently work for the NPR affiliate station in Columbia, I had the amazing opportunity to eat dinner with her one night. Her stories were amazing and her courage that these stories revealed was even more so. Yet what surprised me the most was the story she told us about the U.S. invasion into Iraq. Garrels was one of the few reporters in Iraq at the time of the invasion, and she told us about the Iraqis' reactions to the invasion. 

Some were genuinely thrilled, she said, but most were just "scared sh**less." She would later tone down her language for a more public audience. Generally I do not condone cursing, but for some reason, the way she said it painted a more vivid picture in my mind than anything else she could have said.

The pictures that came back to the U.S. from that day show the Iraqis pulling down the statue and beating it with all kinds of weapons. But notice that you cannot see the people who are actually pulling down the statue. Anne Garrels said that there were not even enough Iraqis in the square to pull down the statue. U.S. Marines had to help them pull it down. 

This shows that ethical journalism is not just about writing the truth. It is about telling the truth in every way, even if that is through pictures. Some journalists like Anne Garrels did give an accurate description of the Iraqis' reaction to the invasion, but others did not. As viewers and journalists alike, we need to stop looking at the world through ethnocentric eyes. We need to see the world as it is, even if that picture is not as perfect as our ideal world. 

The pictures above belong to Reuters.

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