Are we not human?

Here is one incredible side-effect of journalism’s separation from its public: A news photographer feels he has to explain, hide, or apologize for putting down his camera to save people’s lives.

Biello isn’t used to putting his camera down — journalists are trained to be observers, not participants. But the human misery caused by Katrina put these instincts at war with reality, and made many journalists rethink how to do their jobs amid calamities….

He’s convinced he did the right thing, the human thing. But Biello still felt he had to explain to CNN management why he wasn’t spending all his time working. Those conflicting feelings are partly why he hasn’t told his story publicly until now.

CNN management has fully supported him.

“I think it’s heroic and laudable and praiseworthy,” said Jon Klein, CNN/U.S. president. “I’m proud to work with a guy who would do something like that. It’s a cliche at this point, but we are human beings first, and if you are the only thing standing between another human being’s life or death, you really don’t have much of a decision to make.”

Other reporters have talked about the frustration of being on the scene well before rescuers, and said they gave away supplies when they could.

Strict rules about staying on the sidelines aren’t always practical, said Roger Simpson, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and a University of Washington communications professor.

The assumption behind that is incredible: It is as if journalists became crewmen on the Starship Enterprise with a prime directive not to interfere with the life below them.

Journalists are still citizens, neighbors, humans and when we forget that, we forget our real mission: Helping our communities. [via Lost Remote]