Conflicting responsibilities

Last week a drunken homeless man was hit by a car while walking down the middle of 14th Street by 13th Avenue. On the way to help him, an ambulance hit an SUV, and ended up dealing with that mess instead of helping the indigent man. When a second ambulance arrived, the homeless man resisted help.

I happened to be walking down the street, on my way to a photo shoot, when all this happened, and of course I started snapping pictures. That was when I was reminded of how hated journalists are by those who are publicly accountable.

First, while observing legally and without interfering with the critical care that was being delivered by the paramedics, a Calgary EMS truck pulled up slowly behind me on the sidewalk. Fourteenth street is loud, and I did not hear him–until I felt the heat of his radiator against my back. He had driven within inches of me, with no warning, no horn–his way of telling me that Calgary EMS does not want to be photographed at work.

Too bad, buddy.

The driver was not dressed like a normal paramedic, but in a uniform similar to the Calgary Police Service Tactical Unit light-blue duty uniform, with only the word “PARAMEDIC” across his back to identify him as such. He got out of his truck and made an effort to block my view of the injured man, who was still resisting treatment. After the paramedic’s confrontational approach of moments earlier, that was a welcome improvement.

Moments later, another paramedic took time away from administering patient care to stop, look up at me and my camera, and shake his head in obvious disgust.

Again, too bad, buddy.

The role of the journalist is not to make people feel warm and fuzzy. It is a dirty job at times. It is an ugly job far too often. Not every assignment is as nice as promoting a play or reporting on a line of baby ducks that crossing the road.

We need journalists to expose the filthy gutters of life, letting those in power know that they are being watched. Abuses of authority are only possible when they are hidden from public view.

While some publicly accountable employees may not like this scrutiny, it is the journalist’s duty to never turn a blind eye. Even those who decry what we do live safer and better lives because of such attention.

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