Student Media Watchdog Association

CNN Sponsors Human Rights Campaign

In Editorial, Human Slavery on March 20, 2011 at 6:12 am

By Katherine Bies

Did you know there are as many as 30 million people still in slavery today?

Although I have read the occasional article on human trafficking in the news, I have trouble comprehending the fact that slavery still exists for millions of people. Thankfully, CNN has started an initiative to shine some light on the modern-day forms of slavery to remind us all that slavery is still a huge issue- even in the United States.

If you haven’t been to the CNN Freedom Project website, I encourage you to take a look. ( CNN reporters post daily articles to “shine a spotlight on the horrors of modern-day slavery, amplify the voices of the victims, highlight success stories and help unravel the complicated tangle of criminal enterprises trading in human life.”  CNN is not only trying to bring to light a human rights issue that most people know little about, but is also trying to encourage its readers to take a stand to end modern-day slavery.

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This is a classic example of public journalism- journalism that uses the agency of the newspaper to motivate the public. There has been a debate among journalists and scholars over whether or not this type of journalism is an abuse of journalistic power because by advocating a cause, the journalist is removed from the objective sidelines. However, others feel that this new form of journalism is necessary in order to encourage democracy and civic participation in a world in which citizens feel increasingly isolated from civic life.

Personally, I cannot applaud CNN enough for its efforts. While they may be overstepping the traditional role of a news organization, I feel that it is a positive and necessary change. I find news organizations, such as CNN, are the perfect platform for human rights campaigns. Why?

1)      It’s their job to report current events. If they don’t already know the story, news organizations have the means to investigate and research.

2)      Writing talent. Journalists are used to turning complex events into easy-to-read stories for the general public.

3)      Widespread audience. Any story a news organization publishes, whether for the front page or a separate campaign, is automatically broadcasted to millions of people.

I hope other news organizations will also follow in CNN’s footsteps. While I do believe it is important that journalists remain objective and credible, news organizations are an undeniable catalyst for change. It is a shame not to take advantage of their ability to draw attention to human rights issues and to inspire audience action to make the world a better place. With that being said, news organizations still need to choose wisely which causes they motivate. For example, I don’t think anyone would approve if CNN decided to campaign for Obama in the next presidential election.

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