Maybe it is because I teach IB English, but this idea of ‘context’ is often on my mind, especially since I live in a culture that isn’t mine where I observe what is happening here as well as back in the country where I grew up. Also because I am from the US and what I see happening to journalism with the current presidential campaign, I am always wondering to myself, ‘yes, but what was the context?’
The thing that comes to my mind first are the images seen from the various incidents of African Americans being killed by police officers in the US. Through the media, on both ‘sides’ there is an explanation. Because I believe that the US has a serious racial issue, I tend to believe the footage that is out there showing different people being carelessly killed by police. However, since I always try to think of the context, I do find myself thinking, well, what was happening just before or after this? For example with the case where the man was shot in his car and his partner filmed the entire thing including when he died. I found her calmness to be really odd in such a situation, but it was really clear that the man had been shot by the police officer. The scared reaction of the police officer also made me question what the larger context was. He seemed truly scared and not aggressive, so what social issues are happening in this part of the country that the police officer was so scared by the man reaching into his pocket that he would shoot the man? It really isn’t cut and dry even if there is visual evidence.
I don’t think there is any truly objective reporting. In my time as a human, I have seen that what we think, feel, see, experience, can be and usually is vastly different from what another person experiences.
I do think though that citizen journalism is useful and can be somewhat objective as what is usually recorded tends to be raw and unedited. However, what we don’t see if the just before or just after, or the ongoing narrative and context of any given situation so even this ‘raw’ footage fits somewhere in a larger context and narrative.