Monday, September 05, 2005

Get the story--New Orleans

Things like this just torque me--ABC News: Reporters' Blog: Raw Accounts from the Front Lines of Katrina.

We've got to stop and turn around," I said to cameraman Dan Holdren, who was behind the wheel. Next to a bus stop a frail elderly black woman sat in a wheelchair with a suitcase beside her. She looked as alone in the world as anyone I've ever seen.
In a heavy Southern drawl, Bobbi Sanchez told me she was waiting for a bus to take her to a shelter. "You're gonna die if you don't go," she told me, her glassy eyes ooking directly at me. "It's true."

Another elderly woman walked over to greet us. Bobbi was not there alone. Her sister, Lois Bass, was accompanying her on this exodus. They were heeding the mayor's call to evacuate New Orleans. But like so many of the city's black people they did not have the means to drive out of town or pay for a bus ticket or rent a hotel room on their fixed incomes — Bobbi lives on her disability benefit, Lois lives on Social Security. So they waited for the bus.

I have been thinking a lot about Bobbi and Lois these last few days. When I left them on Sunday I wished them safe passage and assumed they would be taken to the safety of the Superdome, New Orleans' shelter of last resort for those who simply couldn't afford to leave town.

I guess being an objective reporter means you take the story and leave the people. The urgent "we've got to stop and turn around" was not to save the woman but to get her story.

There have been reports from places like I-10 where people have congregated for days. These have come from reporters on the scene. These reporters had to get there some way. Why couldn't they pick up some of these people?

Another reporter from I can't remember where helped to save a man who was stranded with his dog, so it did happen. But I don't think I could live with myself to have phoned in a story, or whatever it is they did, about people I left to fend for themselves.

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I think that is how journalists - see themsleves (some not all) as "recorders" but not participants. I think it develops as a protective defense and buoys their deluded belief that they are "objective" when in fact it is being heartless and could be due to burnout or something else.

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