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A Journalist’s Conflict with Conflict

I’ve discussed the facts that media is constantly evolving and social networking is growing at a seemingly exponential rate. This time around, however, I want to focus my attention away from media itself, and look at the people who are behind articles and stories, and how their profession can cause them to grow conflicted in what to report and how.

Photo by Flickr user misterlos

The Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at California State University, Fresno, held its 2010 Roger Tatarian Journalism Symposium on Fresno State’s campus on Feb. 26. Gareth Porter and Nancy Youssef spoke at the event about the pressures that journalists face while working with a news organization and how to effectively report on times of conflict with quickly developing technology, respectively.

Porter is an investigative journalist and historian who concentrates on U.S. national security policy. Named one of the “20 top global media figures” in 2009 by the political website, PULSE, Porter is an independent journalist whose articles are published by Inter Press Service.
Youssef is the chief Pentagon correspondent for McClatchy newspapers. Spending four years in Iraq, Youssef covered stories regarding civilian casualties, everyday Iraqi experience and how U.S. military strategy reshaped Iraq’s social and political realms.

If I were working as a journalist for a news organization, I can imagine how there would be times where my own personal ethics could be put to the test with people who are in charge, as they can control how a reporter reports, to an extent.

My personal mentality for overcoming challenges is to first recognize that they exist. Porter clearly laid out the “pressures” he felt many journalists would face, if working for a major news outlet. For one student, it was Porter’s explanation of these pressures that was really worthwhile.

Personally, I’m not a very objective person; one can say I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I understand that there are times when I cannot allow my emotions get the best of me. Needless to say, objective journalism wouldn’t be my occupation of choice.

Porter spoke of some great points for us, as aspiring journalists, to be aware of as we develop our career:

Firstly: avoid conflicts of interest.

Those who are passionate for objective journalism, can easily find themselves in the midst of pressure with their source: as a reporter depends on a source for information, this reporter could grow reluctant to write negative articles on the outlet that this source works for.

Secondly: don’t allow editors to devalue anything you report.

The editor for whom one may work for has great influence on what, where and how a reporter covers a story–  a story’s placement is everything.

Lastly: be honest and show respect to those whom your stories reach: the public.

Porter completed the circle by saying that the final pressure journalists may face is held within the idea of “societal-political influence:” what a news institution reports, is influenced by society and its viewpoint.

Now, when reporting in conflict (and reporting in general), what makes a good reporter?
Youssef focused on the idea that in order to report on a story well, one must actually be present and be a part of the story itself. I couldn’t agree more– It’s important to not only report the facts of a story, but also to cover the interactions of what’s going on around the scene.

Youssef said herself that a good reporter should learn to “take specifics and [report] what they say of the broader perspective.”

I’m not alone in realizing that we need not always be so caught up in the grainy details of a story, as the emotions of those involved can sometimes make a story far better than before, as one Fresno State student felt as well.

Lastly, with great advancements in technology, covering war zone conflict can have a great influence in shaping a political discussion. It’s the reporter’s real-time war coverage that can now force some politicians to form a developing opinion. In a more general perspective, a reporter is able to bring together everyone’s opinion by what they report.

We are able to report in real-time.

We have the ability to shape political discussion.

In having these abilities, however, we must be aware of the pressures that could come along the way. These pressures that could arise should not stand in our way of reporting to the best of our ability. With rapidly growing technology, reporting is easier and more convenient for society to consume.

With that in mind, we must be ethical.

We must be committed.

We must not be conflicted.


About Carlos Perez

A public relations professional, I graduated from California State University Fresno in spring 2011. I understand the importance of integrity, loyalty and respect. I understand the idea that, in a public relations perspective, "Perception is Reality." While I am still young in the profession, I am fearless of the many possibilities that lie ahead in the industry, and in life.


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