Compassion and Media Representations of Suffering Photography and video have inherent power because it offers something concrete. When it offers constructs of death, pain, injustice and suffering, it has the ability to present evidence to make their claims real and tangible…
Compassion Cultivation The decision on how these images are going to be used and how a story is going to be told are left to the decision of the journalists and the editors. These decisions are influenced by different factors which include cultural standards of the primary audience and the expectations of advertisers. The end product is almost always geared towards what will be warranted as interesting by more people in order to attract more advertisers. Media produce materials that evoke compassion because compassion is what calls audience attention. Media positions the audience from a spectator’s point of view, a passive audience that is powerless when it comes to the doing something against the sufferings of victims of natural disasters and manmade crimes. To establish a more intimate relationship between the news content and the audience, media use personal stories that are highly focused on the civilians. Their losses are highlighted, their tears take the places of actual body count and political analysis. By putting feeding the audience the suffering of people who are supposed to be innocence and the fact that audience are unable to do anything to mediate the suffering, the media creates distant suffering. The audience are being conditioned to take into consideration the condition of strangers thousands of miles away. This framework of distant suffering has been so powerful that it has connected politics, audience, and non-profit organizations towards one cause. The growth of technology has afforded more news organizations and even ordinary citizens to access and distribute news and other information. The internet has also stretched the rules on the extent of suffering one may show. More importantly, this continuous flow of information on suffering has heightened the audience’s compassion because of the reinforcement of the fact that they are ultimately powerless to change to anything and even with the privilege of knowing and watching, they cannot do anything. The audience is not anymore allowed to detach themselves from the fate of other people or take refuge in ignorance because they are never safe from the information. Compassion Fatigue Moeller (1999) believes that this formula is also the cause of compassion fatigue. The continuous drive to heighten emotion and ignite interest from the audience is compromising the very essence of journalism. Journalism is supposed to uphold truths and facts without favouring any side. Journalism is about information dissemination. All of these take an inferior place over profitability. As media companies fight for audience, they continue to raise the stakes on how they present their stories without crossing the legal bounds. As a result, the media companies resort to sensationalism. The result is the ever growing concern on the accuracy of information that the audience obtains and the proper emotion that news is supposed to evoke. Chouliaraki (2006) discussed how adventure news embodies this situation. She mentioned three critical current events: shootings in Indonesia, a boat accident in India and ‘biblical floods’ in Bangladesh. All of these were given no more than one minute of air time. Important information was also not mentioned in the ‘breaking news’ portion and was not presented in the proper context of the event. This treatment results to a lack of framework for the audience to understand the weight of the event. Th ...
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I believe that contemporary media reporting of human suffering impacts upon our sense of self in relation to others as is argued by Hoijer (2004). Hoijer (2004) has argued that “a global discourse of compassion has extended and developed at the point of intersection between politics, humanitarian organizations, the media and the audience/citizens” (p.513).
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