So, just by way of an update, due to a scheduling conflict with my Preventing Wrongful Convictions seminar I’ve had to drop my LAST course. But I still plan to continue this blog for journalistic purposes, personal notes and so on. After all, we live in an age of journalists who write blogs – and I’d prefer not to become obsolete!
One interesting note – for the UBC Innocence Project, each of us had to fill out a form for “institutional access” (i.e. permission to enter prisons). I filled in such data as my height, weight, eye colour – basically the information the police would use if they needed to hunt me down (by the way, I don’t have a criminal record, in case you were curious).
The form also requested the answer to a question that brought me a moment’s pause:
“Do you personally know of anyone who is serving time in a correctional institution?”
To me, the wording here seemed particularly important. The question was not whether I knew anyone personally, but whether I knew of anyone personally. And the fact is, I do know of someone who is serving time for second-degree murder.
A couple of years ago I served on the jury in a murder trial at the B.C. Supreme Court. The trial involved a long-time drug dealer and one of his “friends,” whom the drug dealer was accused of slaying. While I can’t legally tell you what went on in the jury room, as I’m sure you’ve intuited by now, we found him guilty of second-degree murder. (The Crown had initially submitted a first-degree murder charge).
The institutional access form reminded me that no one makes it through life without taking a stand, and every one of us will develop adversarial relationships at some point. As a journalist, I try to downplay my opinions and personal leanings for the sake of my audience. But the fact is, I have opinions, and I’ve made decisions that carried tremendous impact.
For journalists, the ideal of “objectivity” (or at least an approximation) should not compel us to dither in a mire of ambivalence and satisfy everyone. That’s no way to live, and it’s not realistic. Rather, our goal should be to inform ourselves first, and then to provide our audience with the information and resources that will allow them to take a stand on the issues that matter to them. Thus, “objectivity,” in my view, ought to take a back seat to fairness, accuracy, integrity, and the journalistic work ethic.
That’s all I have to say on my occupational philosophy for now. Until next time!