Friday, January 15, 2010

Breaking the Barrier

Yesterday, I listened to the NPR program All Things Considered's coverage of the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. One of their reporters, Jason Beaubien, was detailing efforts of doctors to treat the injured outside a hotel operating as a makeshift aid station.

At this point, some context is necessary. This was the day after the quake. Mr. Beaubien, who at this point had obviously been seeing tragedy after tragedy unfold right in front of him, happened upon a young girl. She was badly injured, wrapped in bandages, and unable to speak or even move, such were the extent of her injuries. It's a scene that is impossible to describe over the radio, but he did his best. And then his voice began to break, and he was barely able to continue his report.
(You can hear his account here.)

I realize that professional news reporters are supposed to be able to erect a barrier between themselves and the news that they are reporting. To report the news without being affected by it. And, to a certain extent, they are able to do that. They have to, if they want to be able to continue their chosen profession.

But being a reporter does not and cannot mean you can turn your emotions off. Emotions are, and have always been, more powerful than intellect. We as a species have always been slaves to our emotions. We can no more shut them off than we can switch off individual sections of our brain.

And yet that's exactly what we seem to expect most of the people who report the news to us. We expect them to be emotionless automatons, reporting on the worst tragedies without so much as batting an eyelash.

I for one was touched to hear a professional news reporter demonstrate that the news affects everyone. Even those who report it.

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