Sunday, March 8, 2009

Giving Voice to the Oppressed

Edited by Lu Tang
by Ellen

Photo Courtesy of

Economic disparity is what drives people to want change. Those who have been oppressed by either the government or another group react most strongly when they are not able to put a roof over their families' heads or provide ample food. In covering stories involving such skirmishes, simply covering the issues of poverty, homelessness, and the hungry bring it to light. These types of stories rarely make it into the news, let alone the front page.

Reporting on 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 the details and personal stories that capture the interest of the public. If, for instance, a middle class American sits and reads about an international war in the newspaper, offered only the details of battle, he will not understand or be moved by the situations of the poor. It is a journalist's responsibility to raise awareness of the world's poor, especially those in Third World countries. The only way to tangibly improve the lives of those in dire poverty is through investigation and exposure, which would lead to action.

Throughout this course, I have become aware of the issues that exist in other countries. Through beat report presentations, I have learned so much about other nations--what their economic and cultural problems are, and story ideas to bring some of these issues to light. In addition, the videos we have watched and critiqued have given us 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 hope of bringing changes 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 past, stories that bring to light tough issues, such as economic oppression, have led to reexamination around the world. 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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