Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How to act covering a disaster

NEWS COVERAGE OF the Houston flooding is wall-to-wall and a bit overwhelming. Hey, at least it knocks some other people off the front pages and the cable talk shows. 

Spending 24 years in journalism makes you take a different view. Ten years were in sports, and it isn't easy talking to an athlete or coach moments after a gut-wrenching defeat. Then there were more than a dozen years as a crime and courts reporter, and you learn how to approach (or not approach) people going through hell and pain.

I remember the flooding in Quincy in 2008. Certainly it pales in comparison to what Houston is going through, but it was a huge deal around here back then and exhausting. I remember walking the levees with the late Chip Gerdes, and going on night patrols in West Quincy. It brought out the best in people, and we tried hard to bring out the good stories.

When you go live, you roll the dice, as the above video shows. Certainly you can't predict human reaction and there probably wasn't a lot of time to prepare for the interview, but you have to try and predict the depth before wading in.

I saw several other clips of reporters dropping the microphone and actually going out to help people. It's the human element we often overlook and fail to hone, and I'm grateful some still have it. It isn't fake news, folks. It's real life, and we're all human.

So prayers to people down there and to the many around here who are trying to help, whether it's with cash donations or sending supplies south. There are still a lot of great stories out there, and I hope those stories are told with dignity and respect for what flood victims are going through.

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