PBS, Media Shift, recently published an article titled, Journalism Students Give Helping Hand While Studying Abroad, by Rachele Kanigel. The article highlights the paths of several journalism students, who took the unconventional, but increasingly popular route of learning about journalism, by doing more than just standing back and reporting. As the world becomes more and more global due to both technology, and the economy, journalism students have increasing opportunities to report in locations that would have been considered too remote, or too poor, a generation ago.
During these young journalist’s stints in these locales, they’re generally partaking in more duties than that of a traditional journalist. Students are providing the subjects they’ve come to report on, with services and help beyond just exposing their stories. These students are helping out the communities they’re reporting on in a number of ways, and providing exposure for great causes at the same time. This raises questions about traditional journalism ethics, and how it will affect the quality of these reports.
Joseph McHale, is a journalism student in Cambodia, studying abroad, reporting on a dental non-profit. He explains about his experience assisting in a dental extraction, documented in a video, for a report. “As you can see, I’m here with Dr. Franklin Young, who trusted me to be his dental assistant for the last few days,” McHale said in the video. The video clearly depicts a young man suited up in scrubs, prepared to be assisting in a medical setting.
McHale is part of a journalism curriculum through California State University, Fullerton, known as, Project Cambodia. The program is run in part, by a communications professor from CSU Fullerton, named Jeffrey Brody. Brody weighs in on the fact, that, according to commonly held journalism ethics beliefs, journalists should remain unattached from the subjects they’re reporting on. It was previously believed that journalists should remain as unbiased as possible, and only convey the unaffected truth. Basically, journalists weren’t allowed to help out. Brody and his students hope to change this old-held belief.
“I think it’s important for journalists to have compassion,” Brody says.
“When students go on these humanitarian missions they’re taken out of their comfort zone and placed in some of the poorest parts of the world. They share in the suffering of others. That makes them better journalists and better citizens.”
The article also speaks about some other great non-profits, that partner with journalism schools all over the country. They provide journalism students with opportunities to report on what’s happening, while lending a hand to the community they’re reporting on. Perhaps it’s Gen Y’s emphasis on sustainability, helping to change this old belief. It’s certainly a strain on resources to have an extra body in an impoverished area. Especially if that body’s not lending a hand in the medical services an organization set out to do. What used to be seen as a faux pas according to journalism ethics, is beginning to become more generally accepted among journalism students, professionals, and professors. Perhaps it’s time we evolve in this manner.