As a disclaimer, I apologize that this particular blog reads more like a diary than an academic assignment and raises much more speculation than firm, tidy answers. I am well aware that the deadline for this assignment passed 5 days ago. Over the past week, I’ve read this story multiple times and scrolled though the photo slideshow capturing moments of R.J.’s final weeks even more. For some reason, I just have not been able to willingly tackle this blog. I wanted to take the time to truly reflect on and appreciate its content, so that I could contribute meaningful insight, but, as the week drug on, nothing hit me. Yet, perhaps the point is not for me to concoct an earth-shattering revelation about the article, but for the article to reveal itself in such a way that prompts discernment and contemplation through subtle realizations. That being said, I set out to answer the questions raised in the prompt: Are Diana Sugg and the photographer vultures? How does this compare to what you generally think about reporters?
Are Dianna Sugg and the photographer vultures?
Who am I to call declare someone a vulture? By what standards is someone considered a vulture? Is there a clearly defined border separating an effective investigative reporter and a vulture? Are vultures defined by the intentions of pursuing a specific story, the means in which they acquire information for their story or purely by the results of a story’s publication? Is it ever necessary or justified for a reporter/journalist to become a vulture in order to access certain information? I really have no authority on making this judgement; however, for the sake of taking a position, I don’t think Dianna Sugg or her photographer were vultures. By virtue of her consciousness of her propensity to become a vulture in this situation, Sugg informed many of her decisions around avoiding vulture-like behavior. As evidenced by the overwhelming number of quotes, some of which are offered below, this was something she clearly grappled over.
- “What if we hurt him? What if he didn’t want it?”
- “How much had I taken advantage of R.J. and his family?”
- “Would the story hurt his already devastated mother?”
- “How much would it really matter?”
- “I couldn’t help crying, couldn’t help asking myself if R.J. was suffering too much”
- “I could hear the rapid, harsh click of Monica’s shutter, the scratch of my pen across the pages of my notebook.”
- “Deep down, I worried that, to achieve that good, R.J. and his mother might pay a price.”
- “Maybe this just wasn’t a newspaper story. Maybe, in my ambition, I had gone too far.”
This was a long, incredibly complex reporting process. How does that compare to what you generally think reporters do?
For the purposes of answering this question, I provide quotes that exemplify themes that demonstrate how the reporting process presented here deviates from the commonly held perception of reporters/journalists:
Responsibility: Sugg places a tremendous amount of responsibility to bear the emotional burden that she is able to withstand in order to tell a story accurately and compassionately.
- “I held onto the words of Poynter’s Chip Scanlan: Mine your own emotional territory. Do the stories only you can do. If I could only do a few stories, they should be the ones that were calling me.”
Purpose informed by compassion and empathy: Sugg finds her purpose in harnessing her compassion and empathy to bring about social change and societal and individual betterment.
- “Over time, I saw how these stories opened up taboos and brought healing. I got a glimpse of my power to do good in this world, and it emboldened me.”
- “But then I did what is always the best policy: I followed my heart.”
Humility: Sugg acknowledges that her “flimsy words” are inadequate to explain the reality of what she experienced, and, therefore, uses direct quotations from the character’s themselves and realizes that she can only do the best of her abilities.
- “I realized the things I was witnessing were more powerful than my flimsy words could ever capture.”
- “I have no other words for that moment, except the ones of R.J. himself.”
- “I needed to find the thing that would save my story and was so busy trying to get it right, that I couldn’t see I would never get it right. I could only do my best.”
Perseverance: Sugg’s willingness to be so involved and dedicated emotionally and physically in this story is a rarity in the realm of journalism
- “I knew the big secret in journalism, that we often give up too soon.”