Students respond to debate, what is the journalist’s role in Haiti?

Editor’s note: These articles were written by students in Professor Bonnie Davis’ journalism class. I wish to express my thanks to Professor Davis for taking the initiative to encourage her students to publish in The CT. I would like to remind any professors who teach classes on writing for pertinent news subjects that I would be willing to review any student work that you nominate with the author’s permission.

The idea of a journalist as simply an observant third party is perhaps the toughest role for me to accept, particularly in times of human tragedy. Recently the earthquake in Haiti has been at the forefront of debate over whether or not journalists are getting too close to the story and letting it affect their work. I’m somewhat undecided on the issue, but in general I would say this concern doesn’t necessarily negatively impact the overall product. People are relational and relatable. When images from the earthquake were first shown they were shocking and portrayed the amount of help the nation continues to need. The only way we can understand what is truly happening in Haiti is through news reports and the people delivering them. As I was watching the news these past few weeks, the more memorable moments that have stuck with me have been those times when I’ve noticed a reporter become a little more emotional. I watched a clip of Anderson Cooper helping a young boy after he suffered a head wound while looting in the street. When I first watched the clip, I agreed with Cooper’s actions. However, I find it difficult to decide where to draw the line. It’s obvious that young boy wasn’t the only person Cooper encountered who had sustained a serious injury, so what makes this particular case so important? Cooper doesn’t have the time to save everyone he meets, but is it fair to help one and not another? In the end, I think he did the right thing, and it caught my attention because I’ve seen Cooper report in tragic situations before and he has done nothing close to his work in Haiti. After watching his extreme reaction to Haiti’s violence, I now understand just how bad things are in that country. – Nan Turner

The coverage regarding the earthquake in Haiti has totally gone astray. It started out as breaking news about a natural disaster, but quickly turned into a press release to alert us about how crappy the Haitian government is run and the level of poverty among its citizens. Personally, I think that the level of media coverage in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake has been over the top. Obviously, there must not have been much news over the last two weeks, because for the American media to devote so much news time and effort to a country that isn’t even our own is ridiculous. This is a third world country that has a corrupt government and is barely even on the map. We’re donating millions of dollars so that it can go to a small percentage of the population, rather than reaching out to help rest of the people who are starving and have no place to live. It’s a joke. As usual though, we want to be the superpower that saves the world. I don’t understand why newspapers are spending money to send camera crews and other staffers to Haiti when all we need to do is send mobile journalists to report from their cell phones. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely very sad and I hope that Haiti can recover. But Haiti needs to deal with this itself, just as American did with Hurricane Katrina.

-Matt Birch

For many journalists and reporters, getting that lead to a good story is huge. Some like to take advantage of a story and exploit it for personal benefits or for their company or capitalize on an issue. Some actually care for the well being of the people/issue they are covering and truly have good intentions.

Is the recent coverage of the earthquake in Haiti too close? Too little? Are journalists focusing in the right places? Do they have a personal agenda? I’m not sure if we will ever find out. These questions come up at a time when many journalists are running around Haiti covering the tragic earthquake that hit. I never pay particular attention to specific reporters when it comes to covering tragedies such as this. I do know that Anderson Cooper, Geraldo Rivera, and Soledad O’Brien are usually the reporters on the scene, when something like this happens. In a way, I’m pessimistic. I truly believe that while yes, these reporters care, they also want to be the one known for getting that “exclusive” coverage or great story. I find myself in the middle on this subject though. I believe that they do care about the earthquake victims, particularly Anderson Cooper. One Internet clip shows Cooper stopping in the middle of reporting to aid a young boy who was struck in the head by a rock that was intended for looters. Cooper probably didn’t help much, but he did what he could and he didn’t have to. I believe that every reporter, given the opportunity, would have done the same. As a reporter, I would be nervous because Haiti is very dangerous right now. But that’s why Cooper, O’Brien and Rivera were hired because they are willing to put themselves out there to obtain good coverage.

-Patrick Rossman

I do not believe there is any problem with journalists getting close to the victims Haiti. I think any career one chooses may cause some emotional attachment. When journalists cover a variety of stories, they are exposed to so many different things that it is nearly impossible to separate your emotions from your profession. If anyone is able to do that such as a doctor, a teacher or those in other professions then I would like to meet them. The only case in which a line should be drawn is if a journalist is incapable of doing his or her job because emotions get in the way. Journalists must remember that they are news gatherers, and once they have all the information required for a complete story, they then are free to help others, or in this case, victims in Haiti. I don’t think I could travel to Haiti just to report a story and then return without the desire to help any of those affected by the tragedy. I realize that it is our job to get close to all our sources for stories we may be reporting, and to gather their trust, which is what many journalists in Haiti are doing. I wouldn’t want to lose that trust and bond built by turning my back on them.

-Ayanna Brown

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