The chains of journalism

“I am depressed … I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners…I have gone to join Ken if I am that lucky.”

Those were the words left in the suicide note of Kevin Carter, the photojournalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for this tragic image.

Carter’s story came back to memory this week as I read Mark MacKinnon’s (Globe and Mail Journalist) moving account of the time he spent in Zimbabwe covering the country’s illegitimate elections. The picture he paints is of a country that has been ravaged by political corruption and the violent unimaginable crimes against humanity. MacKinnon recalls meeting  men who had not eaten for days, and woman and children who had to sleep on the ground in bombed out buildings because of the coutry’s political instability.

And as I read his story, I wondered the same thing I wondered, when I read Carter’s: How do you come face to face with such deep levels of human suffering and not do anything about it?

I do not know if MacKinnon was able to offer any assistance to any of the sufering he met. He does not say in his report. In Carter’s story however, it is said that he shooed the vulture away but did not offer assistance to the girl. It is suggested that his inability to help in this and other similar situations was what led to his subsequent depression and suicide.

This leads to questions like, where does one draw the line between professionalism and humanity? And how hard is it to walk away from suffering knowing that you couldn’t help even if you wanted to? I imagine that these images stay in the mind long after the story is written and the newspaper or magazine has gone into the archives. They are probably experiences that the journalist must carry around forever.

Knowing this has given me a greater respect for the people who bring us these stories of suffering that take place around the world. Undoubtedly, it takes a lot of strength to do the job that they do. Journalism of this type is not for the faint of heart.

Deadlines face extinction in Halton

So apparently students in the Halton School district are no longer subject to pesky things like deadlines.

This is what I learned a couple days ago through Lorraine Sommerfeld’s column in the Toronto Star. Her piece, suitably titled “Memo to schools: Even Blockbuster has due date”, highlighted a new policy enacted by the Halton School Board where teachers can no longer penalize students for ignoring due dates.

I am still recovering from learning that teachers can no longer flunk students or keep them back despite poor performance. Now I have to deal with the extinction of due dates? How exactly are students being taught about time management and diligence if they are allowed to do things whenever and however they feel like and get away with it?

At a personal level, I am glad that I was always subject to the ‘pressure’ of a due date. In fact, I remember my poor nine- year-old self having to stay up until the wee hours of 10p.m. to work on a diagram of the solar system so I would have it for school the next morning. Where would I be without due dates? Thanks to them, I am now a pro at pulling the all-nighters necessary for handing in forgotten assignments on time. They’ve protected me from a world of deducted marks. Without them I would certainly be a C student.

I just hope that none of those Halton students have aspirations of becoming journalists or working with the media, for due dates, also known as deadlines, are very much alive and well in this field. In fact they will be hard pressed to find a career where deadlines are not important.

Halton Students are in for a rude awakening.