Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why is this a question?

As news coverage of the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti continues, several of the national news organizations have sent their "medical correspondents" (like Nancy Snyderman, talking head for NBC, and Richard Besser for ABC) to report from the scene.

Upon encountering so many in need of medical care, some have put reporting duties aside to set bones, treat lacerations, deliver babies. This has caused some wringing of hands in the Fourth Estate about the ethics of reporters, medically trained or not, becoming part of the story.

The complaints center around three themes

1) Journalists are there to find facts, gather points of view and show/tell us what's happening. When they participate in what's happening, they change the events they're covering.

2) Becoming involved with subjects of the story compromises the reporter's ability to report objectively.

3) TV doctor/reporters will choose the most telegenic patients to help, diverting resources from those who may have greater need.

Here's what I think about that:

1) The mere presence of cameras changes what's happening, a fact that every public protestor and kid waving "Hi Mom!" from the crowd in front of the camera, knows full well. In a public emergency, why not just go with it and use what's happening anyway for good?

2) Objectivity in news reporting died when Walter Cronkite retired and Barbie/Ken-esque news personalities stepped in. I wish it weren't so, and if Nancy Snyderman not treating patients would bring back an expectation of objectivity, I'd be all for it. But it won't. Might as well make some sort of purse out of this ugly sow's ear. Especially if the purse might save a life.

3) This may well be true, and I agree that's neither fair nor desirable. But here are the choices. Tele-Doc on assignment stands in front of hundreds of sick people and blabbers for the camera about the horrible scene. Or she puts the microphone down and splints a beautiful wide-eyed child's broken leg. To my mind, that's one less patient for overtaxed medical personnel without a tv gig to attend to, and one more human getting help.

News organizations have way bigger ethical issues to consider. Focus on those, and in the meantime, if somebody on the news payroll has expertise to meet a need more urgent than tonight's soundbite from the scene, get on with it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

On the ground in Haiti

A blog post from the young woman noted in my previous post. Here's the link, it speaks for itself.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Okay, I get it now

The daughter of a family friend lives and works in Haiti with her husband and a sweet little toddler they are in the process of adopting. Her blog, No Frills in Haiti ( is a beautifully expressed journal of their lives in that hot, beautiful, desperately poor -- and today, it appears, ruined -- country.

I first learned about the earthquake last night not from news reports, but through my friend's Facebook status update, which noted that they'd not yet received word from their daughter. I awoke this morning to news of the devastation on my trusty clock radio tuned to NPR, and my alarm intensified. But before I headed off to my morning appointment with misery at the gym, I checked my Facebook page on my iPhone recharging by the bed and saw that minutes earlier our friend had sent another status update with the happy news that all three of them were alive and together.

Such relief. Followed, of course, by more concern -- the aftermath of such an event can be as wrenching as the event itself, and if I know anything about these angels of mercy, they will be in the midst of it working tirelessly to help so many injured and homeless.

But for now, as of this morning, they're safe.

I've complained aplenty about the fact that the rise of the internet allows anyone who can type or push buttons on a flip cam to be a "journalist" and the disintegration of the mainstream media. In my view, we're hurtling toward a world in which we each can live in our own little bubbles, getting our news from only those places that match our world view without distraction from dissenting ideas or opposing views - some of which might have merit. That troubles me. A lot.

But in knowing that in a horrific night of worry my friend could turn to Facebook to keep a broad network of friends and acquaintences apprised - and engage that broad network in fervent prayer, positive energy and support -I now fully get, and very much appreciate, the up-side of our changing media habits.

Take care, Kim. I will be thinking about you every day until you are able to share what you can of these experiences. Until then, I'll be checking your mom's Facebook status updates and thanking heaven for the forward march of technology.

P.S. A news report about them:

Friday, January 1, 2010

To ring in the new year, a guest blogger...

... myself! From another blog, about our annual New Year's Eve food-fest that represents much more than the start of a new year to us.