World Culture

The Role And Conflict Of A Journalist In Disasterous Times

Chief CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta examines an injured Haitian girl in the medical fac

Chief CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta examines an injured Haitian girl in the medical facility aboard the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson off the coast of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Surgeons, including Gupta, removed a piece of concrete from the child's brain caused by the earthquake in Haiti. U.S. Navy/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption U.S. Navy/Getty Images

My thanks to Lynn Neary for filling in while I attended a two-day training seminar that all editorial and many other staff have been requested to attend at some point—it was about multi media. Since I am the queen of all media—having worked in newspapers and television and now radio—and having used social media for reporting since the beginning of this program—I was not that jazzed about the training—other than for the opportunity to connect with colleagues from around the country. That, not surprisingly, was the best part for me. It is fun to know there are some amazing people behind the voices you hear every day—as well as the people who get us on the air. As I said to one of the audio engineers who attended, without you I am talking only to myself. And yes, I did learn some things about how some of the tools we use actually are constructed. I hope the fruits of the training session will be visible (and audible) to our audience.

Now to our coverage — it's tricky, period. In Haiti, the misery continues as does our reporting. We turn our attention to how journalists are covering this story. All the usual rules and questions apply. Is the coverage fair? Is it accurate? Are you learning what you need to know to understand the story to the degree that we can figure it out? But this degree of tragedy seems to raise additional questions: are we seeing more misery than usual because there really is more misery? Is it because we really need to know, or because this is Haiti and because these are brown people and, thus, the usual rules of decorum do not seem to apply?

And, what about these doctor/journalists, running from reporting in the field to the operating table? Who are they in this story? They have sworn a professional oath but their role is to be present as journalists—but as a medical doctor do you remain the dispassionate journalist in the face of such overwhelming human suffering? I confess that the dilemma is not just theirs. Every time you see something happening—someone getting hurt—what do you do? Do you pick up a camera or do you "help"?

And speaking of difficult dilemmas: if people are attracted to radical movements, can that attraction be dispelled? And how?

Click here to read a piece that got us thinking about it.

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