The Digital Journalist
War Is Hell And So Is The News

by Beverly Spicer

August 2006

What is there to say but "war is hell"? The world situation is increasingly out of control and the MIddle East seems to be igniting into out-and-out radical, nihilistic destruction. The public, as unprecedented, instantaneous witness via mass communication, is divided between those who are appalled and those who are cheering it on. The news is split the same way. Mainstream news reports seem to be feverish for war, talking about smart bombs, precision/surgical strikes, showing images of buildings in rubble and victims on stretchers being rescued, as dignitaries offer humanitarian aid with one hand and more bombs with the other. Images found only on the Internet show an unvarnished portrait of the dead with pleas to stop war. In an outrageous sense of disproportion by the mainstream news, equal time is given to the latest Hollywood celebrity birth, marriage, divorce or arrest, or the latest high-interest kidnapping or murder, some of which outplays war reportage by multiple repetitions. On the other hand, alternative news reports apart from the tightly spun mainstream and in blogs on the Web offer their own spin, or not, on an unedited vision of real events that many do not want to see, and some do not want you to see. As Americans over "here" instead of "over there" we must make a concentrated effort to search for a true portrait that covers all sides of any conflict. For the most part, mainstream news offers a sanitized version, and alternative sources on the Web give it to us raw. To get the full picture requires us to digest both sources of information. As second-hand witnesses, our biggest job may be sorting out the propaganda. Either way, raw or sanitized, propagandized or balanced, it's hell.

The Digital Journalist is not really in the business of presenting the news; rather it generally concentrates on the profession, business, and industry of photojournalism, presenting galleries of photographs that celebrate various photographers, living or deceased, who have accrued notable bodies of work. Since we are a monthly magazine, the closest we have to news is Dispatches, where editor Marianne Fulton presents communiqués and images from photographers currently working in the field. However, when a sudden event of global interest happens, such as the December 2005 tsunami, or Hurricane Katrina, or the unanticipated war in Lebanon, The Digital Journalist is in a unique position to receive a digest of the most pertinent and relevant photographs from the period just prior to publication. This month we have more than usual news reportage due to the current situation in Lebanon and Israel as the horrific Arab/Israeli conflict escalates and nervousness in the entire region intensifies. No matter what side people are on, everyone is outraged and grief-stricken, and passions are running high. Forces obvious and obscure--some beyond many to even recognize--are vying for power and dominance, and while much burns, some fiddle.

We are constantly asked where we find photographs and videos, especially for this column, where we present the sublime to the ridiculous and everything in between. Friends and readers send us Web sites and videos to view, and we search for the rest. This month's column presents information both unsolicited and researched, but all of it is about the news.

What follows are photo sites from the current conflict that are particularly disturbing and poignant due to the preponderance of children in the images. Whether images such as these belong on the nightly news or not, these photos need to be seen so that we fully understand the reality of war. Photojournalists Dahr Jamail and Kevin Sites both maintain Web sites exclusively devoted to their work. A video entitled "What's Happening in Lebanon?" is from YouTube, an infinite source of news, information and individual work, and others have posted personal sites with photos they have gathered into galleries, two of which appear below. Another asks, "Do you know what kinds of weapons cause this damage?" Finally, one simply asks us to "Remember These Children." Click on each photo to enter the related site.

Dahr Jamail Iraq dot com

Kevin Sites Hotzone

What’s Happening in Lebanon?

Pictures from Qana

Flickr Photos

Remember These Children

As for news and information in video or radio form, mainstream and alternative stations are listed in alphabetical order below. As well as on their home sites, many new and old clips can be found by going to YouTube and searching the station, for example, ABC NEWS, AIR AMERICA NEWS, AL JAZEERA NEWS, BBC, CBS NEWS, CNN NEWS, DEMOCRACY NOW, MOSAIC NEWS, etc. Searches such as these will produce fascinating results, and you can watch not only recent clips you may have missed, but also historic and momentous announcements from the annals of news from the 20th century and the past six years. Here is a compendium of news broadcasts and information that can be found easily on the Internet. Click on each one for its home site, or save this page for future reference. I encourage you to check out any that seem obscure; they may become favorites.

I have only one other video clip for you at the end of this article, and it is entitled "One Week in the Life of NBC News with Tom Brokaw." It may be a little out of date, going back to 2002, but it is as appropriate as ever. It is a spoof, but with a serious intent. What, you may ask yourself, is the mainstream news perpetrating on the American people? Is it news, or is it fearmongering? It's not like there isn't plenty to be distressed about. One might think they like to keep viewers scared, while maddeningly diverting our attention with a steady feeding of altered and sanitized versions of the real reality, at the same time encouraging viewers to live vicariously through movie stars, go shopping, and hate each other. What is that thing about keeping one's head while all about are losing theirs? Is news presentation "fair," and is it "balanced"? I'm not so sure, but it is for each of you make up your own mind as we are marched steadily forward and onward through the fog.

As the sweltering and hellacious Dog Days of August continue to put lives in jeopardy, let us proceed accordingly as we get the facts, listen to our hearts, and try to keep our heads. What most of us can do about world events, except be aware, I do not know.

© Beverly Spicer

Beverly Spicer is a writer, photojournalist, and cartoonist, who faithfully chronicled The International Photo Congresses in Rockport, Maine, from 1987 to 1991. Her book, THE KA'BAH: RHYTHMS OF CULTURE, FAITH AND PHYSIOLOGY, was published in 2003 by University Press of America. She lives in Austin.