July 16, 2013

Photojournalism, Bias and Voting for a Casino in Springfield, MA

I teach an online History of Photojournalism course at American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts.  I start the discussion on Photojournalism and Bias with these questions for my students:

Can we, as individuals, be free of bias? Can we make impartial judgments and be completely objective? What about with historians and photojournalists?  The goal for these professions is to be objective and unbiased; to present the truth.  But what is truth?

Might your truth be different from mine, which might be different from that of my neighbor?

A "No" Vote

I thought about these questions as I documented Springfield residents voting whether to approve a bid by MGM Resorts International to build a casino in the Western Massachusetts city.

A "Yes" Vote

I took the above pictures at the polling station in Springfield Central High School. 

Does presenting both sides of an issue necessarily indicate a lack of bias on my part?

I then headed over to the to the polling station at the Frederick Harris School.



The Springfield Republican (which endorsed a "Yes" vote) reported that the MGM Resorts International poured about a million dollars into the Vote Yes for Springfield group while the grassroots Citizens Against Casino Gambling has raised about $3,000.

He Voted "Yes"

This man told me that despite the poor deal the city negotiated, he voted "Yes".

Husband and Wife (in middle) Voted "No"

The wife told me that she was a lifelong resident of Springfield and that a casino would be out of place in her City of Homes.  The moniker stems from the city's large stock of Victorian housing.

Looks like a busy precinct, right?  Actually, the voting machine had jammed, leading to this line of waiting voters.

One of the goals of my History of Photojournalism course is for students to understand the biases of photojournalists in the context of their own biases.  I invite you to read student work here and here.

Well, I just finished writing this up and checked the web.  The initial results indicate that the "Yes" vote won.

© 2013 John Nordell