Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Me! Me!! ME!!!

According to Wikipedia, the "Me Generation" is the so-called Baby Boomers - my generation.  Of late, it seems to me that our current 20-somethings are strong competitors for that label.  As a weather geek, I'm probably not the most knowledgeable about such things, but it sure seems to me that storm chasing is being flooded with a large infusion of folks out there chasing who are, as my friend Gene Moore says, mostly about themselves and not so much about the storms.  "Look at me!" they shout.  "I'm special because I chase storms [stupidly!]."  They seem to care little or nothing about the feelings of storm victims as they cheer a tornado touchdown in their videos.  They thumb their noses at the very notion of chasers being responsible to others.  They wallow in their uncaring "outlaw" status, joyful as a pig in a mud puddle when they get publicity for their "exploits". "We can do whatever we want to and you can't do anything about it!"  And that part's true - I can't.

The dominant theme seems to be to get your video on TV (and/or to post it on Facebook) to show the "adventure" of being caught in a tornado, even when the video is pretty clear evidence in some cases that they're not in the tornado.  They often like to claim they're out chasing in order to save lives - which is pretty evidently ludicrous.  No, for these egomaniacs, it's all about shouting themselves into fame and fortune, pushing their foolishness onto our TVs and computer screens so that they become renowned - if not famous, then infamous for their foolishness.

In the wake of the tornadoes in Nebraska on yesterday, we have an image spread far and wide by a self-proclaimed photojournalist that purports to show the body of a little girl on a gurney shortly before she died from her injuries.  The photojournalist seems quite defensive about some of the reactions to his marketing of this image and, in my view, he has cause to be defensive.  I acknowledge that photos may show an unpleasant or even offensive image of a situation, and a photojournalist surely has the job to record those images and to show the rest of us the truth of the situation.  I get that.  But profiting from this image just seems wrong to me.  The event his image records is not about the photojournalist and his reaction to the situation, upon which he seems primarily focused.  It's about the little girl, her family, and the town's struggle to cope with a disaster.  In my opinion, his proceeds from selling that image should be donated to disaster relief, or to the family of the little girl.  He advises others to send relief to the town - should he not do likewise (preferably without fanfare or the cameras rolling as he does it) when he is profiting from their misfortune?  Does his success as a photojournalist make him immune to the immorality of personal gain at another's expense?

Also, an arrogant private sector weather forecaster has taken the same opportunity to promote himself and his services, heaping scorn on the forecasts and warnings by the National Weather Service (NWS).  Private sector forecasters have a proclivity for this, especially when they actually appear on the air, promoting themselves rather than focusing on their statutory obligation to disseminate weather information.  Disrespecting forecast competition isn't limited to other private sector forecasters - they often spread their net of scorn to include the NWS, whose ability to respond is basically zero, regardless of the truth or falsehood of such criticism.  No, the private sector is blatantly self-promotional, and is evidently willing to use every situation to promote themselves and disparage their "competition".  They are the quintessential proponents of themselves.  Rarely do they subject their own products to rigorous verification, and even more infrequently do they publish their verification statistics for all to see.  "I'm great! Take my word for it!" they proclaim.  A few are exceptions to this typical behavior - more power to them.  But self-serving promotion of themselves is rampant and unethical, in my view.  The American Meteorological Society should be much more aggressive in pursuing ethical violations by its members, it seems to me.

Self-promotion seems pervasive in today's world.  It's surely not limited to my generation.  And it seems to be increasing, at least as it relates to severe weather.  It surely can be argued that this blog could be interpreted as a form of self-promotion, but I think rather than seeking fame and fortune, I'm putting my thoughts out as catalyst for discussion - not lining my pockets with cash or attempting to gain fame as a consequence.


Jason Weingart said...

Very well said, Mr. Doswell. I could not agree more. I haven't been doing this stuff for long, but am absolutely disgusted by the behavior of a lot of people. I can't imagine how frustrating this stuff must be for those of you that have been doing this for decades.

Vickie Doswell said...

Judging by what I have read about both these incidents I feel that karma will eventually come back to bite their butts and I hope life events to their personal families aren't the bite that it takes. Bragging about what a good forecaster or photographer you are definitely is limiting and you set yourself up to be bested. Working as a trained professional in the aftermath of these horrific events is not the time I want my picture or those in my care taken and I don't want to hear about how much better your forecast was...have a little respect guys!

Wes Carter said...

As a former photojournalist I believe that everyone who calls themselves a photojournalist should study ethics as it applies to journalism. With freedom comes a great responsibility to not only tell the story truthfully but to also question whether or not we should tell the story.

Stories of natural disasters need to be told so that people can see what happened and decide whether or not they want to volunteer to help, make donations, or pressure elected officials to provide government assistance. As a journalist, one has to decide whether a photo of a seriously injured little girl is necessary to effectively tell the story. I'm not going to attempt to address that issue in this comment, but the decision has little to no integrity if the financial reward is the major deciding factor.

Since the proliferation of high quality digital cameras and fast internet connections anyone can be a freelance photojournalist. Media outlets employ fewer and fewer professional photojournalists and instead acquire their photos from Johnny On-The-Spot. It's all business decisions made by people who answer to bean counters instead of professional editors who make decisions based on journalistic integrity.

We are getting what we are paying for.

Matt Luttrell said...

I'm not sure I believe that there is any generational or significant change in human personality happening here. We're probably just seeing the result of the internet.

Chuck Doswell said...

update ... as this story line continues, I believe the FB discussions associated with the photo of the little girl have brought out many things of which I was unaware at the time I posted this blog. I think I can say that from where I sit, the debates have had a very positive overall effect, despite the snarky and nasty things some people have said. I've learned some things and believe the chaser "community" has benefited from the argument - at least those who are responsible.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing this out Charles. I saw this story on Gawker. Then...throughout FB threads. Makes me sick.

Curt Kaplan

Anonymous said...


I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with your statements.

I originally saw the image BEFORE all of the chatter about the ethics thereof. And perhaps not having any background made the situation different in my mind.

What I saw in the photo was Emergency Personnel carrying an injured child out of rubble. No where in the photo is the extreme damage that evidently was on the other side of her little body. It was only after reading other’s comments and then Mr. Invictus comments when I realized what objections were presented.

I’d like to reference other photos that have been published over the years that were award winning images. Other children being pulled from pipes, the moment when a man was shot in the head from close range, all were lauded even though they were tough to look at. I believe that without knowing that the little girl passed away from her injuries, there would be no objections whatsoever. People have won Pulitzer Prizes for such photos. It seems to be all about the outcome of the situation.

In fact, what if the girl survived because those emergency personnel got there quickly and got her to doctors who were able to stabilize her condition? Suddenly the photo would change from “the photo of a dying girl” to “The valiant rescue of a five year old from a mean old tornado. A triumph of the human spirit!”

The photographer would still have to snap the shot,no matter which way the final result happened.

Now if we move past the photo to the end result …that the girl died from her injuries and should the photo be published… That decision falls on the paper that decided to publish the photo. In that situation, I think that the newspaper was in error. They should do the research and know if the girl survived her injuries or perished by them. And in our current society, we don’t show children’s deaths.

What would have happened of the photo wasn’t taken and the girl survived? The opportunity for a heartwarming story of survival would be undocumented and lost. In the moment, a photographer can’t tell if someone if going to live or not. They have to capture the moment. Stopping the taking of these photos would negate most of the best shots in history. The shot of the Hindenburg going down. People jumping from the flaming ship. Shots of people jumping from the World Trade center while it was on fire. They make your skin crawl knowing that these people were in the process of dying and it was caught on film for the rest of time. Just because the scene is tragic doesn’t mean that the shot shouldn’t be taken. And I think the fact that this shot was taken to avoid showing the child’s injuries was in good taste.

To address the photographer’s attitude is a whole other story which really isn’t my business. I may not agree with his attitude but the focus is on ONE photo. Not his personal life.

But that being said, there were eyewitness accounts of him searching homes before the photo was taken. I think his humanity has come into question and I think he showed that he was able to do the “right thing” and put his priorities in the correct order but only taking the photo after doing his moral duty. I don’t base my opinion on people by what they say. It’s how they behave.

The only issue I have with what Mr. Invictus did was keeping the photo in public view after he learned of the death of the child.

So if you are needing to pin an error on someone, there’s that. However, I think the real target should be the real gatekeeper in this whole event, the newspaper who shared the photo with the world.

Jerry Prsha

Chuck Doswell said...

Jerry ... I see you're a storm chaser.


I believe I must respectfully disagree with your opinions. The focus should NOT be on the photo - it should be an the situation in which a little girl died and her mother is [last I heard] still in a coma. If you feel comfortable taking the shot and marketing it, that says something about you. I would NEVER even take the shot, much less market it - doing so would never feel right to me. Thus, it seems we must agree to disagree.

Storm Invictus (aka Mark Farnik) is a troubled young man and this situation is one of his own making. I believe he needs some help and his threats to anyone who disagrees with him show this clearly.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about not including my name earlier. Yeah, I would never take the shot either. But then again, that's not the profession I've chosen. I chase to see weather and that's it. Not profit from it.

Jerry Prsha