Among the thugs... or one of them?

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Wow. That is my first thought. I'm still kind of processing the reading. Probably the most valuable "tool" that I can take away from Buford is his doggedness in reporting. He really doesn't take no for an answer. He keeps talking to people, he keeps asking questions, he keeps following everyone around. That said, he knows when to back off when a specific person is ready to punch him in the face, but he doesn't let that stop him from going on to the next "hooligan." I loved the story. Let me put that out there. I would love nothing more than to write something like this someday. I admire Buford for his persistence, and mostly his guts. Let me say, though, that the story really did raise a troubling ethical dilemma in my mind, though. The fact the Buford was witnessing this kid getting beat, maybe to death, and doing nothing. I realize that he was a reporter, that he was trying to win these guys over, that he was smashed, even. As he says on page 191, "I was transfixed. I suppose, thinking about this incident now, I was close enough to have stopped the kicking... But I didn't. I don't think the thought occurred to me." I can understand that disconnectedness. But none of that excuses just watching something like that happen. I'm not saying I don't sympathize. I'm not sure what I would have done in the same situation. But our role as journalists should never come before our role as human beings. I found the scene pretty disturbing, and in the end, I don't think even the best of stories is worth the price of becoming, or even silently aiding, the villain yourself.

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You ask a very important question to Bill Buford, is he Among the Thugs or one of the Thugs? In my other journalism classes, we are instructed to stay outside the event, to record from a distance what happened, and report what happened.

If I had been writing a similar book, I would have joined the local police or teamed up with a local reporter. But, then I would never have been able to describe the Thugs from inside their group.

Was Bill Buford an ethical reporter, or did he cross the line between reporting and being an active participant? How close should a reporter get to his or her subjects? Did his being within the group of thugs encourage their violent behavior? Should Bill Buford had volunteered to turn over what he had seen to the local police or did the local police ever ask Bill Buford to describe what he saw during the riots? When can the local police use a reporter’s reporting to arrest and attempt to put on trial criminals, even if the reporter has made friends with some of them? Who or what is the reporter most loyal to anyway, their subjects, the law, protecting their own lives, or to telling their story to the general public?

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This page contains a single entry by haavi010 published on March 9, 2010 3:01 PM.

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