Do We Want Our Journalists To Get Emotional? Just about every anchor and pundit of every race and hue called Barack Obama's win Tuesday a historic moment, as it unquestionably was. And yet for some of these experienced news professionals, the development hit home even more powerfully.
NPR logo

Do We Want Our Journalists To Get Emotional?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/96702459/96702440" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Do We Want Our Journalists To Get Emotional?

Do We Want Our Journalists To Get Emotional?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/96702459/96702440" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick. David Folkenflik covers media for NPR, a lot of reporting about the election, naturally. He noticed that there were particular challenges for black reporters, especially on television live as history unfolded in front of them on Tuesday. Here's an essay from David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: NBC's Ron Allen was just about shaking his head in astonishment reporting from Chicago's Grant field, home to the exuberant victory party, and he told MSNBC anchor David Gregory he needed time to digest the first White House win by an African-American.

Mr. RON ALLEN (Reporter, NBC): President-elect Obama, Vice President-elect Biden - I can barely say the words - and their families, and it's something - it's just I'm finding it very difficult to just accept and believe has actually happened, and I...

FOLKENFLIK: Many mainstream journalists swear by the principle of dispassionate objectivity, and just about every anchor and pundit of every race and hue called Obama's win Tuesday an historic moment, as it unquestionably was. It is, in a very real sense, the national repudiation of a violent history of legalized oppression, including slavery, segregation, lynchings, and discrimination. And for some of these experienced news professionals, the development struck home powerfully. Just listen.

Mr. STEVE OSUNSAMI (Reporter, ABC News): I grew up in a neighborhood that was mostly black. And my father used to tell us that there's no way this country would elect a black president.

FOLKENFLIK: ABC News reporter Steve Osunsami wrestled with his composure late Tuesday night, reporting from the historically black campus of Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Mr. OSUNSAMI: Well, this evening, the country has proved my old man wrong - and we're the better for it.

FOLKENFLIK: Yet, it's not a partisan stand, at least not from where they're standing. The impartiality of long-time PBS anchor Gwen Ifill as moderator of the vice presidential debate was challenged in October by Republicans.

She was writing a book about the emergence of a new generation of black political leaders, with Obama as a central figure. She too is black, but took umbrage at the idea that her race or the subject of her book meant she wouldn't be fair to Republican running mate Sarah Palin. Here she was on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Ms. GWEN IFILL (Anchor, PBS): If changing the subject from the stakes of the vice presidential debate meant talking about the moderator instead of talking about the candidate, they would do that. If we've learned one thing about this campaign, it's that every week, it'll be something else.

FOLKENFLIK: Yet, not since Hurricane Katrina and certainly not previously during this campaign have you heard such raw emotion from journalists. CBS's Byron Pitts talked about calling his mother, a 76-year-old African-American woman born in the segregated American South, and asking her thoughts on Tuesday. She said, quote, "baby, I have four words for you, glory hallelujah, glory hallelujah." Such personal testimony might not have been textbook old-school journalism, but it accurately conveyed what will be written in the history books. David Folkenflik, NPR News.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.