Hurricane Irma slammed into Florida and the Southeastern US
Hurricane Maria pummeled the Caribbean still reeling from Irma
Two earthquakes devastated Mexico
Hurricane Jose still threatens parts of the US
The news is heartbreaking. Before the advent of the internet and the 24/7 news cycle we didn’t have as much instantaneous news about disasters like these. While we might prefer not know, I don’t think that’s an option.
Roy Peter Clark, a renowned journalism educator, put it well in a recent column (Roy teaches at the Poynter Institute in St Petersburg, Florida which was in the path of Irma).
For all the journalists covering the storm, working while I’m hiding, balancing your job with the care of your family, looking the storm in the eye while so many of us are running away, let me say: “Thank you, thank you, thank you for your service.”
Roy calls journalists “first responders” and I agree.There is a narrative about journalists in the land that goes like this: You are elitists, detached from the concerns of real Americans. You are jackals, preying on the vulnerable. You are ideologues in disguise, distorting the news for your own interests. You don’t care about your country. You are, in the words of the president, an enemy of the people.
To neutralize the poison of this vision, I have begun to think of journalists as among the first responders. When wars, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, riots, wildfires strike, it is often the journalist who is among the first on the scene, helping us to understand the dangers and looking for opportunities to help.
I’ve driven straight into many a storm (tornadoes in the part of the world I covered as a young reporter). Why do we do that? Here’s what Roy says ( I encourage you to read Roy’s entire essay by clicking on the photo above).
Reporters who head for the storm front or the front lines want a good story, one that can go on the front page. But not for its own sake. The sagas they write of tragedy and loss, of compassion and redemption, give us hope, even in the darkest of times.