Don’t Abuse the Power of Pretty

I’ve met plenty a pretty person, and I think it’s good for beautiful people to have confidence and don’t shirk away from their attractiveness. But there comes a point when knowing you’re pretty can turn into an abusive power.

The type of power abuse I’m referring to is commonly known as a “tease”, “heartbreaker”, or a “flirt”. These have feminine connotations, but I have met a fair share of handsome gentlemen with the same tendencies as beautiful women. These power abusers know they’re beautiful, enjoy it, and like to see others reactions to their beauty. Often times I’ve noticed that it becomes a bit of a game to them, seeing the opposite sex (or same sex queer) squirm. It is an incredibly powerful feeling to not have to do much other than exist and smile to make someone melt. And like all other powerful feelings, it can become addictive.

Look at how many I have on the line!

Look at how many I have on the line!

The opposite is also true of beautiful people; they can also not like to address their beauty or use it per se, because they are embarrassed by the attention or it or would feel entirely too conceited for them to acknowledge it in any way, shape, or form. I used to be this way. And yes, if someone asks me now if I think I am attractive, I say yes. It is an objective quality determined by any number of things including general cultural cues, independent preferences, and moods. But if I think I am an attractive individual, for whatever reason, I shouldn’t be embarrassed to acknowledge it. Anything else would be demeaning. There’s a difference between that and modesty.

Modesty is important. If you do think you’re attractive, don’t make a point of bringing it up to people, or rubbing it in their faces. Such attitude would be what is known as a “sore winner”. Confidence is great, but crossing the bridge into braggart territory is just harmful. The abuse of power I’m talking about is another harmful effect of being a sore winner in the game of beauty.

I had a friend once, who was off and on in a committed relationship with a guy for several years. I thought for sure they were destined to be married (turns out they were, they are now married.) But she would always attract the attention of other people, guys and lesbians alike. When she was single she would flirt and smile and offer her attentions to almost anyone, leading them to believe that she was really on their side and interested. She had many offers to become romantic with these other people, but she always declined and ended up returning to her steady flame. What bothered me most was that even whilst she was taken she would continue the flirting and sending “I’m really interested in you” vibes to these other people that were quite obviously interested in more than just her vague friendship. I told her once that I felt she was leading them on and that it wasn’t very nice. She just looked at me and said, “It’s fun.”

While it was fun for her to see how many callers she could get from both sexes, it wasn’t as fun for the people who thought they had made a genuine connection with her. What a surprise when all that alone time she spent doting on them turned out to be nothing more than a mild entertainment for her. It usually left them confused, upset, and very down on themselves. Being played with like a toy isn’t fun for the person standing in as the “toy”- no matter what Toy Story leads us to believe.

I try to be wary of this. I’ve gained confidence since high school, but I want to be responsible with it. As much as it sucks, beauty is power to an extent. If a guy I don’t feel romantically inclined to or even physically attracted to asks me to do something like sit in his lap or hang out one-on-one in a romantic setting I turn them down. Better to let them know immediately that it’s not what you’re into than to lead them along and play with their emotions. That is just cruel. And you never know, you may be distracting them from opportunities to meet the real person for them.

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Framing

We talked about framing in news lecture this week. I believe it’s a very important thing to know going into journalism. It’s something that I’ve thought about a lot as a photojournalist.

As a photojournalist, framing is key. As a photographer in general, framing is important because it can make or break the shot. Framing a photo is essentially choosing the content, just like when a painter decides what they want to paint. They may have a whole other world and imagination to choose from in their head, but what counts is what is seen. It’s the same with photojournalists. When they snap a photo they essentially blind the viewer to all of the things they kept out. Powerful stuff.

So of course, from an artists’ standpoint we want the photo to be pretty. “Visually appealing” would be a better way to phrase that. But from the journalist viewpoint, we need to find a way to make the photo both visually appealing and informative. It has to tell the story as it is, hopefully without bias or obvious neglect. If it’s not possible to do both, it’s more important to tell the story accurately than prettily.

I know it aches every artistic bone in the body to turn your back on the pretty, but journalism isn’t about presenting pretty things all the time. It’s about presenting the truth. And photojournalism is a great way to aid truth telling by adding that extra piece of evidence, when used correctly.

Reporting Death

Death is not an easy thing, and it never should be. This week’s story about an Ashland teen who committed suicide is not easy for anyone involved. And while reporting a story of this nature is incredibly difficult, it’s not nearly as difficult as it is for the family of the deceased.

I know this from first hand experience. I too lost someone close to me at a young age. And I still keep the obituary saved as a bookmark.

Notice that none of my brother’s family is quoted. It’s true that Nathan See and Preston Turley were very close to Willie. But the immediate family side is not there. No, my brother did not die at his own hand, but if I were the reporter doing this story I probably would have wanted to get a comment from the family. I’m sure that the reporter tried, but I was 19 at the time, I don’t think I had really lost my “innocence” until then, and I certainly was in no mood to speak to a student reporter at the Missourian. I could barely even speak to my friends and family.

My parents were similarly indisposed. My parents didn’t answer many phone calls in the first couple days, only direct family and Pastor Ramsey at First Presbyterian got through. Losing someone at such a young age is not expected. It has an even more tragic effect since the deceased did not have time to complete their life. Willie was excited to become an educator and he was so close to graduating. He wanted to become a loving husband and father and grow more in his faith. He had so much potential ahead of him.

When those years are suddenly snatched away the question of “Why?” is always on the mind. I’m sure Jacob Meadows’ family is asking that question even more since he took his own life. They’ll never know for sure why he did it, and that will upset them for the rest of their lives.

I still grieve for my brother. More than two years later, I still think about him and burst into uncontrollable sobs. So when reporting about death, especially if the deceased is a youth, remember that the family is not thinking about how their loved one will look in print. But they will remember if you dishonor them in any way. My parents cut out newspaper clippings and I watched news videos online and saved that obit. It may seem a bit morbid, but it’s a way of remembering them, of remembering their death and not taking life for granted.

Don’t take it personal if the family tells you to go away or stop calling. They’re in no mood to be polite and personally I felt like I had nothing left to lose for the first couple days. It felt as if the world had ended and reason had abandoned us. It’s still important to do a good job. So finding those other sources, such as Preston and Nathan, is the next step. And if that doesn’t go through, simple is always best.

My brother, Willie, and I outside our house in Litchfield, Minnesota in 1995. It's okay to say he looks like Harry Potter.

My brother, Willie, and I outside our house in Litchfield, Minnesota in 1995. It’s okay to say he looks like Harry Potter. He does.

Excuse Me While I Drone

It’s true, I was slightly terrified when I saw a video of smart flying robots in lecture on Tuesday. I did not, however, run for the hills. Instead, I pondered the not-so-ethical uses these little buzzing creatures could possess. It’s scary enough that nations are already developing and harboring nuclear weapons, but when these smart little unmanned drones are added to the mix, all hell could break loose. They’re small which means they’re easily transported without detection and they have the ability to record and track areas with scary accuracy. It’s obvious these bugs are advanced and would be useful in combat situations, so someone is bound to use them. In fact, they already are.

But the journalism implications are far greater. As a profession, our ethics are what make us credible. And these nifty cameras certainly toe the line. Sure, it’s really cool to think that you can get an accurate image of a protest or riot without putting yourself in danger, but if this technology has the capability of seeing things that are often behind barriers, people start to wonder if there’s a drone above their head.

Americans enjoy their privacy, and while our privacy is more important to us than the privacy of say, Iraqis, a lot of people would still whistle blow on a news outlet that used a drone to peer into the private lives of people abroad. Human rights’ groups and right to privacy activists would raise a stink if any organization were to so blatantly ignore the rights of human beings, especially if it were an American organization supposedly known for touting ethics. But the benefits of using such a device are tempting. Policemen and businesses are already vying for their share in the drone epidemic, and especially in the case of the police, these benefits seem to outweigh the bad. Apprehending criminals is made easier by drone technology, and business farmers would be able to view their crops from above for a relatively low cost. So what’s to stop them?

Ethics, that beautiful word, yes. Commercial uses may be innocent enough, but it only takes one bad apple in the whole bunch to use the technology for less than honest reasons for it to become a problem. Releasing these bad boys on the market means that, well, they’ll be on the market. And we all know once something’s in the market place, there’s no turning back. Everyone will get their hands on one, because let’s be honest, they’re pretty cool. But that means that journalists could obtain one, and other, more malicious persons. This may all sound pessimistic, but it’s bound to happen. There are laws in place about gun licensing and possession, but look at how many illegal guns are out in the market right now; regulation is bound to be broken because the temptation is too high.

As far as journalism is concerned, these gadgets should stay out. The technology is incredibly effective and smart, but it’s dangerous and prying. There’s a reason why people aren’t allowed to just fly over any piece of land they so choose. And since these bugs fly, I’d say they should be subject to the same scrutiny. Remember, no one likes a” Peeping Tom”.

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