Friday, March 6, 2009

Giving Voice to the Oppressed

Edited by Ellen Schnier
By Ellen Schnier

Economic disparity is what drives people to demand change, often through violence. Those who have been oppressed by either their government or another religious or cultural group react most strongly when they are not able to put a roof over their families' heads or provide ample food. In reporting stories involving such skirmishes, simply covering the issues of poverty, homelessness, and the hungry brings them to light. These stories rarely make it into the news, let alone the front page.
Photo courtesy of Wildwood Outreach Gazette

Reporting about the many people affected by war as individuals, as opposed to a general overview of the conflict, gives voice to the underrepresented. In any country, seeking out sources to fill in the gaps and contextualize the war provides readers with full information about the nature of the crisis. It is a journalist's responsibility to raise awareness of the world's poor, especially in Third World countries. The only way to tangibly improve the lives of those in dire poverty is through investigation and exposure, which leads to action.

Throughout this course, I have become aware of the economic and cultural problems that exist in other countries. In addition, the videos we have watched and critiqued have given me a new sensitivity for working in such countries. Jim Nachtwey, for example, has made it his life's work to address the needs of the poor and has risked his life to tell the stories of the underrepresented. He serves as an example of finding the underlying story and not settling for the position of the government and the details of each crisis. He humanizes each story in order to affect change in the system of economic inequality.

Though some of these stories may be out of line with the U.S. government's official foreign policy positions, the United States has a freedom of the press that allows for dissension. Because of that, journalists can enlighten those with uninformed, nationalist thinking, to help the world's poor. In the future, we as journalists must continue this cultural and economic examination in support of those who cannot speak for themselves.

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