Journalists need compassion

I’m new to this whole journalism thing. I’m a wannabee, influenced by drops of Wolfe’s Acid-Kool-Aid and Hunter Thompson’s mescaline-fueled mayhem. Then again, name me a journalist these days who isn’t?

I want to be that reporter who can get the news and still appear at least mostly human. I’m not a story-whore, hell bent on scooping up a story before anyone else can shovel it into their own newspaper first.

I’m not going to stoop to that level, preying on sources like a vulture circling a rotting carcass in the desert sun.

People, and by that I mean most of them, are worthy enough to have their own right of privacy protected. It’s not my job to shove a microphone in their face when they’re bleeding from the ears after some horrific train wreck, or weeping waterfalls of tears after they learn their brother exploded into a million gory pieces in Iraq.

It’s my job to show compassion, to actually stand up and give a shit when others won’t. If that means I have to put away my notebook or camera in order to console someone in pain, than so be it.

If that means I miss out on a key interview or a phenomenal photo-op, than I guess that’s the price I have to pay to be human.

Some journalists could care less about compassion. Some exist solely as a means to leech off of humanity when it is at its absolute weakest.

During the recent screening of “Flags of Our Fathers” at the Casella Theater, I saw veterans from various wars break down in shakes and sobs after seeing the film, as memories of battles long-since passed flooded back into their memories.

These are the men who fought in force at Iwo Jima, Vietnam, Korea, and God knows where else, for the sake of our country. These are our country’s heroes – our Supermen.

And it was when they were at their absolute weakest, with canes and tear-soaked handkerchiefs in hand, that the media horde stalked its target like a cat on a fish tank.

I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I couldn’t walk up to a visibly shaken veteran, who in himself was already extremely intimidating, and ask him how it felt to see all that bloody carnage again up on the big screen.

I mean what kind of stupid question is that? How do you think he’s feeling right now?

Or better yet, why not ask, “sir, how about your squeezing out a few more tears so my photographer can see the pain in your face a little more clearly – the lighting in here is horrible.”

Good Christ! Do reporters actually do that? I could never stand back and get off at the sight of people wallowing in their own miserable pain.

But many of the other reporters in attendance did. Most of them are going to have significantly better stories to print than I will. I let my compassion blind my eyes to my job, which was to get some good quotes, a few quick snapshots, and get back to my computer to type everything down for this issue of The Spartan.

I’m new to this whole journalism thing. There’s a lot I need to learn, and there’s a lot I need to change about myself in order to become a halfway decent reporter. But the one thing I won’t change is my genuine sense of compassion for the sake of some stupid story.

And I’m just fine with that.