By Margaret Garmon
The Saturday Friends Club got a first-person account of what its like to be a photojournalist covering the biggest news stories of the past two decades.
Photojournalist Bill Gentile recently shared his experiences that had taken him to the hottest news spots in the world when the club met at the First Congregational Church in Ravenna.
Now an assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at Kent State University, Gentile sees his role as being an educator who will prepare the next wave of photojournalists to cover future top news stories.
Sharing his views as photographer, journalist and eyewitness to the news stories that have become part of world history, Gentile presented a thought-provoking program.
Gentile covered the 1979 Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua for United Press International. In 1983, he was hired by Newsweek as contract photographer in Latin America and the Caribbean based in Managua, Nicaragua. While the rest of the world was following the Contra War on television and in newspapers, Gentile saw the changes first hand as a journalist.
Other countries followed any actions made by the U.S. Congress because they knew these actions would have an immediate and profound effect on countries such as El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s, Gentile said.
To illustrate this, Gentile showed a portion of the documentary The World is Watching about journalists the world over covering the peace talks in 1987.
Gentile was among the journalists and their roles highlighted in the documentary.
The media play a key role in deciding where to deploy resources and in turn where to shine the light in dark corners, Gentile said.
The media also play a key role in deciding what images accompany the story. Confrontations are the images that usually run, he added.
Gentile returned to Nicaragua in December for the follow-up documentary When the World Stops Watching.
My task was to find both Sandinista and Contra peasants from the first documentary and explain what had happened in their lives and in their country since the first documentary was shot in 1987, Gentile said.
Those contacted were excited to see Americans filming their story, that the interest was still there, that they had not been forgotten.
Media are seen as the force that pushes people in power to do whats right. The media hold them accountable.
Just our presence changes the reality of their country, Gentile added.
Although Gentile is still a photojournalist, his role as JMC School faculty has him preparing the next wave of photojournalists who will cover tomorrows big stories.
My job is to instigate a desire in my students to go out and understand the world around you, Gentile said.
The success in instigating that desire proved itself when a KSU student in the JMC School landed a chance to go to Afghanistan to work for the Assyrium International News Agency, assisting world-renowned photographer Manoocher Deghati of the Agence France Presse newspaper. During the six-month assignment, Glenn Luther will teach photojournalism to Afghans in Kabul and assist Deghati.
Im very proud of the program and this young man, Gentile added.