The Ethical Challenges of Reporting on War and Terrorism

Language is key. As journalists we should know this. We learn to write “said’ instead of “declared” or “cried” for fear of editorializing. But what happens when words are ambiguous? How do you report on terrorism or torture when there is no clear definition of these two terms?

Those are the questions Trum Simmons raised during his presentation. They only problem was he did not provide an ethical solution, or even a solution. He mentioned the myth of objectivity that often accompanies war stories. He defined objectivity as a fact that can be checked against some record. But when reporting on war stories the records becomes unclear as well. Facts and objectivity lose significance.

In this way Simmons did discuss the ethical challenges of reporting on war and terrorism, but I was looking for an answer. That may naive. I was looking for a suggestion. For a dialogue.

I found more insight from the war veteran/ journalism student studying to become a war correspondent. This vet expressed a desire to share his experience in the war, but imparted a fear of losing credibility as a war correspondent. His situation embodied a reporter’s dilemma: I am a journalist first and American citizen second? He showed he understood the subjectivity in the word enemy and terrorist.

“People are dying because of language,” he said.

I guess it is our mission to fight a rhetorical war along side the men in combat.

-Melissa Kansky


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