Friday, October 26, 2012

The Boundaries of Being a Bystander

As a journalist, social justice advocate and general human being, I feel there is a moral obligations for a journalist to their "sources" or whomever they are working to cover. There are situations where journalists, acting as humans, should help someone.

As a journalist, I do feel like I easily detach from the situation, but many aspect of "self-disclosure" that journalists will avoid, I feel are very valid. For instance, over the summer I did a more long-form-esque piece on the only LGBTQ support resource in Hernando County, Fl. When I initially contacted this group that work in a suburban/ semi-rural area the group organizer was very wary of what the Tampa Bay Times might want with their organization.
Members of the Hernando PFLAG chapter

We met over coffee to talk about it and I had to basically prove I was not a threat to the safety of their group. It would be easy to say I was interested in the organization because I am also queer and wanted to explore resources in the area I cover for other queer individuals. But I didn't do that. I didn't want to cross an ethical boundary that I wasn't even sure was there. Over my month and a half (maybe more) of covering them, at some point I did discreetly disclose that I had a "partner." From there, there was a mutual understanding that we understood part of each others stories and I was not just an outsider looking in.

Much of my work in the social justice community has to do with bystander intervention whether it is in bullying, alcohol poisoning, or sexual assault.  While I understand letting events unfold in order to document them, I do not feel any other case, especially in international coverage, should be that different. Why do press credentials give reporters the privilege of being a bystander instead of a solution?
Barbara Sinclair (left) of Brooksville, Fla. marches in the 2012 St.Pete Pride parade with her son, Dean Whitcomb.

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