Is It Possible To Be Objective In A Time Of War?


This has been a week of juxtaposition -- things that seem the same show their differences, or at least their true nature, when laid side by side.

It started on Tuesday, Aug. 15, when I put a story about Jared Caros, a Jewish young man planning a move to Israel, on the front page of the paper.

The story took up a good portion of the page with a dramatic picture of Caros looking down at the viewer, a Russian handgun clearly visible at his hip.

I put the story there mostly because it fascinated me -- a young man working two jobs to scrape together enough money for his dream of joining the fight in Israel. He reminded me of so many young men -- passionate, idealistic and in search of an identity.

He reminded me of the young man in the book "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer, whose quest for "truth" ended when he died in a school bus in the wilderness of Alaska.

And I imagined that something in him would remind many readers of themselves in an earlier time when the world was still painted in black and white, when adrenaline and a desire to make a difference drove their decisions.

When the paper came off the presses, I looked at that picture of Jared and knew the phone would start ringing soon. I was right.

In the next few days, I received e-mails and calls from readers who felt I was promoting violence by putting that story on the front page.

I offered that I was only providing a glimpse at one person's perspective and was not agreeing or disagreeing with Caros' point of view.

The people who called were all very thoughtful and some of the conversations stretched into some of the most interesting discussions I've had since moving to Payson.

Those debates raised many interesting questions.

Does a newspaper make a statement of opinion simply by shining a spotlight on something like the story of Jared Caros?

One man asked me if I would have run the story if it was a Muslim young man, raising funds to join the fight in Lebanon. Absolutely, I said. If a man was working at Wal-Mart to raise money to join Hezbollah, that story should be told.

Our goal as journalists is to be a mirror, an unbiased reflection of the happenings around us.

But, as humans, is complete objectivity possible?

One evening, not long after one of the earlier mentioned phone calls, I went home and watched the movie "Dear Wendy." The film tells the story of teenage pacifists who become enamored with guns. They each choose a personal weapon, name it and begin carrying it, concealed, on a daily basis. They spend their time together studying the history of weaponry and the medical explanations of what happens to the body when shot.

They see no contradiction in their personal beliefs and their choice to carry a gun until the end of the movie when they are forced to make a choice between giving up their guns or firing.

The message was -- when it comes to violence, there is no neutral ground.

On Tuesday of this week, I ran a story about another young man going off to war in the Middle East, this time to Iraq as a U.S. Marine. It ran in the same spot on the page as Jared's story.

The two young men are the same age and live with a similar intensity and idealism.

But they and their stories are made different by their circumstances and their choices.

I received no calls about this story.

I had no debates.

And no one questioned my point of view or the statement the newspaper might be making on this issue.

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