How Do You Deal With This One as a Journalist?
“Ric Nesbitt, a Texan whose 16-year-old daughter was murdered, described how it feels to the 1997 convention of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association: “Most victims and their families are average citizens — ill-prepared to deal with any of the variety of demands suddenly made upon them. At a time when their coping skills are at their lowest, society somehow expects that we be at our best. The media is inextricably involved in this” (30).
The one thing I really like about Haiman’s book is how he uses good journalism to describe journalism. By that I mean he finds really good quotes from people who are qualified to have a specific opinion in order to get his point across. This example of a man who lost his daughter sharing how he and many other victims of crime and the media responded to the media thrusting a mike in their faces is very real. It’s well put, to the point, and very true. If your daughter was murdered, of course you aren’t going to give the best quotes. This is why the news is riddled with people giving quotes like “She was the nicest girl” and “I don’t understand why anyone would do this to our [fill in the blank].” These feelings are natural, but they aren’t really good quotes because they don’t say anything thousands of other people haven’t said already. It is the fact that broadcast journalists can get the victim’s parents to cry that really impresses the audience. The minute you see that loved one cry, you don’t think about what they’re saying, you pity them and thank the news for alerting you to the story. Print news works similarly. Although you cannot see the tears, you can still picture them.
You have to feel bad for journalists, though. (Well sort of. They know the job description.) It is their job to ask the tough questions that in normal life, you’d feel awkward asking a person. Nobody wants to ask a girl about her dying grandmother for fear you’d make the problem worse because grandma died last night and you didn’t know. This is why so many of us just don’t ask or ask a different question like “How are you doing?” hoping to get a response that would allow you to at least make an inference. Being sensitive and yet still getting the necessary information is an art form. This is why Haiman suggests training. Read about this on Josie’s blog.