In this essay for the Random House of Canada online magazine Hazlitt I explore how omnipresent digital cameras kept bystanders from intervening during a violent encounter on Vancouver’s Granville strip.
Many professional journalists agonize over the ethics of this kind of reporting. Some argue that journalistic objectivity overrides any particular responsibility to act. Photojournalists train themselves to grab their cameras and start shooting before they fully recognize what’s happening around them, believing that documenting the moment does more long-term good than acting to stop it, or at least fulfills a separate but necessary societal obligation. But what happens when everyone with a camera phone sees him or herself as a journalist on a story, when everyone is a fly on the wall?