Most recently, a freelance photographer in New York has received scrutiny over choosing to snap pictures rather than to help a man who was pushed in front of an oncoming subway. Though he has dismissed them as “unfair” and that he really did try to help by using his camera flash to alert the subway driver, this is just one of the many instances where society has criticized journalists and/or photographers for refusing to drop their duties and help out.
Journalists are human too. We eat, sleep, breathe, feel, and bleed just as everyone else does. That’s why it’s not unheard of for journalists to intervene, just as Anderson Cooper did when he saved a boy in Haiti from looters who were pelting others with bricks and stones. From my point of view, however, journalists are trained to react to breaking news by distancing themselves from what’s going on and trying to get as much information as they possibly can. Sometimes, that training becomes second nature – even in situations where journalists are caught in the fray.
Not to say that the photographer was a coward at that moment, of course. He snapped photos as the event unfolded in front of him – something photojournalists do.
“I just started running. I had my camera up — it wasn’t even set to the right settings — and I just kept shooting and flashing, hoping the train driver would see something and be able to stop,” said R. Umar Abassi, the photographer, in an article in the New York Post. “I had no idea what I was shooting. I’m not even sure it was registering with me what was happening. I was just looking at that train coming.”
I believe that Abassi’s training as a photographer may have clouded most of his judgement. Despite this, however, I don’t think we should blame him for taking those photos because a) he was hundreds of feet away from the incident and b) he claims he actually tried to help by using his flash to alert the driver.
In hindsight, let’s ask ourselves, why didn’t anybody else step in to help? This should not be a discussion as to why the media is coldhearted. This is a discussion of society in general. Why is it that people will sustain their moral responsibilities and expect others to step in for them? We shouldn’t point the finger at one person. It’s everyone fault in the end.