Ethics is based on well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues(1).
Storytelling can happen in many ways, perhaps verbally or visually. It also happens through writing and in media. Therefore, being an ethical storyteller means becoming aware of how we share information about the people we are serving, whether through photographs, writing or video. It applies to those in missions, relief and humanitarian work. When we challenge ourselves to share ethically, we begin asking question such as:
Do we have the person’s consent to tell their story, for this purpose and in this medium (photo, writing, video)?
Whose needs and desires are at the center of how the story is presented, the person whose story it is or the audience for the story?
Who is the protagonist/hero of the story, the person or our organization? When I share, am I empowering or disempowering others?
Are we telling the story in a way that reinforces harmful stereotypes or stigmas about a social issue or the people who are affected by it?
What will happen to the person after we tell their story in this way? Could it cause them harm? Are we going to continue to help them and be in relationship with them, or are we leaving as soon as we “get what we need?”(2)
The contributors to the website Ethical Storytelling have designed a pledge that represents the ways in which we can document our efforts to become protectors and supporters of those we serve. You can go to the website at https://www.ethicalstorytelling.com/pledge/ to learn and sign the pledge to become an ethical storyteller.
Photo by: Dariusz Sankowski from Unsplash