Why Honest Journalism Matters and Can Make a Difference

Global Research – by Dominic Ponsford  Interview with Nick Ut 40 years after the ‘napalm girl’ picture: Proof that journalism matters and that it can make a difference

If you ever find yourself wondering whether journalism is a noble profession and whether it can make a difference I would recommend reading my interview with Nick Ut – which appeared first in last week’s edition of Press Gazette – Journalism weekly, our new digital magazine all about journalism.

The veteran AP photographer is a remarkable man. The Vietnamese photographer who captured the famous ‘napalm girl’ picture explained why he believes it helped stop the war and why it has also meant photographers no longer have the freedom to cover conflicts as they once did.

Some forty years after Nick Ut took the most famous picture of the Vietnam war, he says he regularly gets thanked by US citizens who believe that his photo stopped them being sent to Vietnam.

He was on Highway One when the napalm shells began to rain down on Vietnamese homes in June 1972.

Families, mothers and children began pouring out of the buildings including a terribly burned nine-year-old Kim Phuc.

After taking a series of pictures, then 21-year-old Ut – whose brother was one of 100 journalists killed during the Vietnam war – drove her to hospital and had to flash his press badge in order to persuade the doctors to help her.

Back at AP’s Saigon bureau Ut says a picture editor was reluctant to put the photo out. Legendary AP photographer Horst Haas over-ruled and it became a picture that went across the world. It was later acclaimed as the best news picture of the Vietman war.

The political impact in the US was immediate. Asked whether he believes his photo helped change US policy in Vietnam, Ut says: “After the picture appeared right away I met so many American soldiers who said ‘I’m going home because your picture stopped the war’. I still meet people who thank me and say ‘I never went to Vietnam because your picture stopped the war’.”

Asked how foreign reporting has changed in the last 40 years, Ut says: “In the Vietnam war you could go anywhere you wanted. After the picture of napalm girl and other pictures you don’t have any freedom to cover war any more. They control the media a lot more now. They don’t want more pictures like napalm girl.

“In Iraq and Afghanistan it’s very different. That’s why I don’t want to go to another war.”

If Ut hadn’t taken young Kim to hospital he believes she would have died from her terrible injuries. “If she had stayed there another 30 minutes she’d have died because it was so hot in the village. That’s why I am so glad I helped her.”

Today the pair are still close. He says: “I talk to her once a week. She calls me Uncle Nick, she’s like my daughter. I always worry about her and try to help her.”

5 thoughts on “Why Honest Journalism Matters and Can Make a Difference

  1. I recall as a young boy seeing a photograph of Winston Churchill, cigar in mouth seated at the bottom of his garden building a brick wall. This was a few years after the end of the second world war and Britain needed rebuilding.

    Here was the prime minister of that country getting his hands dirty, getting the job done so to speak and acting responsibly in improving his lot.

    This photograph was an inspiration though we would now call it a photo opportunity, however Churchill was a war correspondent and was not above getting his hands dirty. It achieved in inspiring a nation of hard working and of rebuilding with the attitude that if Churchill can then why cannot I at least have a go at practical work.

    Now we rely on socialism and happily pay the entitled ones their debt dues. Can we survive without them?

  2. Recent war pics are available, they just don’t get any exposure in the commercial media.

    I’m thinking of a T-shirt. 1972 and a Vietnam pic on one side, 2012 and a recent pic on the other. Caption says, “Same suffering, different pretexts, same profits.”

    Hm… maybe that needs a third panel.

    Bumper sticker: Don’t take mutilation and death for granted, thank a soldier today.

    Sure, it might get you beat up, but we’re in a culture war. The Ut photo has stuck with me ever since I was a kid, and it really informed how I think about war and US foreign policy. The commercial media just doesn’t have the freedom to show any compassion anymore.

    Have comapassion for the soldiers. The ones that go off and see or do really horrific stuff, they’re committing suicide. Another T-shirt?– Shame a soldier out of a deployment, prevent his suicide.

  3. hahaha….honest journalism? WTH is that? Are you kidding me?

    How do you know what is the truth nowadays? And what few pieces of truth that are leaked or you stumble over, you will never know the full story or the background.

    Face it folks. Its the end of the world as we knew it and lived it. That’s the only “end of the world” scenario facing us, especially in 2013 with obamacare forced down our healthy throats. Tax revenues are needed….you will be part of the refinancing/recapitalizing of the US government, or else you’ll live in misery or die.

    Those are your choices….regardless of the fairy dust that blog writers are blowing up your arse. When they promise you change, you get none. All their promises are antithetical…are you really that ignorant?

    And now you’re wishing for honest journalism. Pipe dream baby. Fascism is here for awhile. best prepare yourself.

  4. It doesn’t matter if they won’t read it. Being held hostage by a nation of swine. I am glad to be among such distinguished exceptions on the net.

  5. Journalists are only effective in a culture that hasn’t lost its soul. However, we know that as many as 30% to 50% of Americans have renounced their conscience. Their “religion” is the power of the state and the liturgy is flag waving. For them, The Empire’s ability to command obedience to its’ will through force of arms is what they worship. It was thus in Vietnam. And these same vampires are still among us – as we saw with Iraq and as we’re seeing in the case of Iran

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