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]

  • Journalists are “humans”? Very funny.

    What did Bob Knight say? Something about reporters being only one notch above prostitutes?

    Okay, maybe I am over-generalizing.

  • Insufficiently Sensitive

    And this profession is the one which lionized a couple of journalists not so long ago. Their professional feat? They declared that if covering a Viet Cong ambush in the Vietnamese jungle, they would NOT put down their cameras to warn their fellow Americans in uniform, walking into said ambush.

    And your real mission is helping your ‘communities’? Apparently that’s just the guys you’re travelling with at the moment.

  • Paul

    Excuse me, your real mission is not (or shouldn’t be) “Helping [y]our communities”. It’s “searching out and publishing the news, regardless of your opinion as to whether it helps or hurts your community”.

  • Johannes

    The same issue is also discussed in a documentary called “The War Photographer”. Should a journalist put down his/her camera and intevene, or should s/he stay a few feet from a dying person and just take pictures for us well off people to see in magazines.

  • The public would also expect that journalists are taught in journalism classes to report, but are instead taught to be something more like crusaders for a particular point of view. “Changing the world”.

    Yet we always hear that they shouldn’t inject themselves into a situation like this. Think about the message that sends the public… it’s OK to intervene in a story on behalf of your own point of view, to try to force an outcome for your point of view, but it’s at the same time not OK to intervene in a story in order to save lives or create some outcome that’s not directly beneficial to yourself or the fourth estate — an excuse to be cowardly, remote, and biased.

    No one expects a journalist to make extraordinary and unreasonable self sacrifices, but this basic dichotomy of motives is more visible to the public in the internet age, and contributes to plummeting public opinion of journalists.

  • Elli

    I guess it`s not our decision to make whether this man should`ve done his job or save a life instead. It seems heroic for the ones who could imagine themselves to be the saved victim. On the other hand, a person who didn`t get the wished newsflash is dissapointed.A man should do what he feels is right. And what is right is his decision, and his only.

  • kat

    Journalists like this are simply terrorist enablers. I have no respect for Reuters or AP….or al jazeera.

  • Ah, the old dilemma. I remember in college a teacher was trying to impress the significance of holding a camera, that you never know what could happen while gathering news. He showed us several clips to hammer that point home, including the R. Bud Dwyer tape. The photog zoomed in on Dwyer after he blew his brains out. It made you think.

    He asked us if we were in a remote truck and a car in front of us skidded off the road into a heap, would we grab the gear first or rush to the aid of the befallen? I quickly rose my hand and said it was an obvious choice. You go to the people first. He said I might be out of a job and I would have to answer to my boss. I told him I answer to God before I answer to any news director.

    “heroic and laudable and praiseworthy” indeed.

    Kat–what should the photogs do?

  • penny

    “Strict rules about staying on the sidelines aren’t always practical”

    Substitute practiced and the hilarity of that statement rings true for the bias and political agenda that runs rampant throughout the MSM.

    More hilarious is the picture painted of Joe Journalist feeling he crossed a line in helping hurricane victims. After his touching mea culpa to his editor and some counseling he probably sat down and banged out some of the bilious sensational garbage that passed for journalism in covering New Orleans.

    What an incredible fluff piece replete with this innane and pathetic utterance by Jon Klein…. “It’s a cliche at this point”….


  • kat

    Not collaborate with jihadis!!