with spools of suffering set out in ordered rows.
The only light is red and softly glows,
as though this were a church and he
a priest preparing to intone a Mass.
Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.
He has a job to do. Solutions slop in trays
beneath his hands which did not tremble then
though seem to now. Rural England. Home again
to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel,
to fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat.
Something is happening. A stranger’s features
faintly start to twist before his eyes,
a half-formed ghost. He remembers the cries
of this man’s wife, how he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how the blood stained into foreign dust.
A hundred agonies in black-and-white
from which his editor will pick out five or six
for Sunday’s supplement. The reader’s eyeballs prick
with tears between bath and pre-lunch beers.
From aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns a living and they do not care.
I had to read this poem when I was doing my GCSEs. I never did history. I was never interested. I didn’t know where Pnom Penh was nor did I care. My teacher was shocked. None of us knew anything bar the students who were taking history. So he pulled out the infamous photo of the burning girl by Nick Ut.
The photo changed me. My english teacher actually stopped normal classes to discuss morality with us. We spent two classes arguing about the Photographer’s Dilemma. Whether it was right or wrong to take a photo first or help first. Whether you could have the stones to make the decision to take the photo (the right decision). I thank him for that, the man changed who I grew up to be and for the first time as a spoilt grammar school kid from a middle class family, I started to feel socially aware.
We forget that our news is recorded by individuals who often take great risks. But before we rant on about how women are at more risk, lets not forget that the risks involved are different depending on the gender. Gone are the days of the war journalist, the brave soul entrenched with rebels photographing pictures. And I say this because I read the tragic tale of Lara Logan who was sexually assaulted and beaten while reporting in Egypt.
A lot of talk has been heard of how that was a risk she was taking being a woman out there. The attitude that a man would have somehow been better off is common place. Lest we forget that a man would have probably been killed by the same mob.
We should encourage more women to be journalists. We need to provide proper support and indeed provide a system where we can keep our journalists safe. I understand risk is a hallmark of journalism. The idea of entrenchment and subterfuge is endemic to the field from Spider Jerusalem to Seymour Hersh. But what we can do is make those who wish to report from structure and relative safety do so without as much risk. To teach them the risks involved and make sure they know how to keep themselves safer.
The rules of journalism have changed. With the spread of cheap digitial cameras normal people are capable of taking stunning images that would be nearly impossible for us to replicate simply by sheer dint of volume. Likewise they are more entrenched in the society and can respond faster via blogs and social network sites. The man on the street view has killed the idea of entrenched journalism. However all is not lost. Journalists still produce amazing work as we see here.
Its a sad truth, the reporter has become disposable. Previously it took journalists to get information out. But with the internet? Any damn fool can get his information out (Look at me? They let me talk on here and I know I am only smarter than the average bear) without awkward question, spin or bias of the reporters. Why would you talk to the BBC as a raging lunatic when you know they will portray you as a raging lunatic? Instead you can release umpteen amounts of Youtube videos proclaiming how you are planning to blow up the lizard men who live on the dark side of the moon and all your followers can agree with you without any intervening naysaying from sane sources. So we are seeing more and more reporters die because their traditional protections is gone. They are no longer sacrosanct messengers, they are now just another easy victim of war.