By Mike Brady and Mary Testa
This past week presented us with a broad range of experiences. Over the past seven days each of us has had to adapt to varying circumstances. From seven hour bus rides to five star meals to living with lizards and mice to sunrise yoga this week had a little bit of everything.
The highlight of our week was staying and volunteering at the Bal Ashram orphanage. The orphanage rescues boys who have been subjected to child labor. Located in the middle of a desert the orphanage has received much attention recently largely due to it’s founder, winning the Nobel peace prize just a few months ago.
At the orphanage though, there hadn’t been any noticeable change as a result of all the attention. Except, in addition to us there were also journalists learning about bal ashram while we were volunteering.
It was fascinating to observe the journalists as they asked questions and took pictures. The journalists, from Sweden, staged their cover photo by taking one boy away from his football game and having him stand alone by a window. The photographer then proceeded to take the boys picture through the window screen–achieving a photograph which was almost entirely out of context.
Now we have no idea if they photographer will use that photo or how it will be presented but regardless this observation showed us how media and images can tell stories that differ from reality.
Moreover, in our post trip discussion several good points were made about how journalists may look to force stories to fit narratives that readers want or expect. In this example, the reporters entered a playful and joyous room of 30 young boys but appeared to ignore the remarkable resilience of the boys choosing to instead portray a solemn and isolated orphan.
Understanding how peoples expectations can alter the way they perceive events has been a common theme in all three countries we have visited.