Report: Humanity

13 May

“The end of journalism, I believe, is to serve people in the most profound way possible…. So you will need intelligence and experience to do this kind of work and also a sense of your own humanity.” – William F. Woo*

Because I leave BBC on as I sleep, I often awake to various news reports from around the world. This morning, I awoke to hear of the earthquake in China, a report I would hear again as I drove to work, would read on CNN.com, and would watch on Nightline. Each report was very much like the others and not so different from any other subject or top story. Neal Karlinsky of Nightline reports on crumbling buildings and a climbing death toll in a voice reminiscent of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and after videos jump from a scene of crushed bodies to an expert on earthquakes, Nightline moves on to other stories, and the viewer can turn off the TV and turn into bed, safely removed from the suffering on the other side of the world.

As I drove home from work, however, I heard Melissa Block of NPR reporting from China. I first hear her voice caught in the midst of the earthquake: unshaken, reserved, and calm, Block reports a crumbling church and the shaking of the earth beneath her feet. NPR then goes live to Block shortly after she has surveyed the aftermath of the quake, and now I hear a completely different voice.

Block describes the middle school, which completely crumbled before the majority of the students could escape. She describes the bodies of school children, who had earlier climbed from out their parents’ cars, but now lay upon the broken earth, broken bodies over which mourning parents stand as they identify the dead. Block’s voice breaks, she pauses, and though she continues, her voice continues to shake as she is speaking.

In the shaking of her voice, I hear more than mere facts and numbers; as she fearlessly describes a most fearful event without masking her own fear and grief, I hear and feel the suffering of a horrific human experience. Without pictures or videos, through Block’s voice, I can hear the wails and prayers of the parents over the bodies of their children, and because Block has not reported in a “professional” manner, I cry, and in a small way, am able to share in the grief and suffering that has occurred thousands of miles from my city.

Because Block did not mask her human response, listeners were able to connect and respond to the story on a very human level, and though I may not sleep as easily had I not heard Block’s coverage, I will sleep with a fuller understanding of suffering and loss, an understanding that yields a deeper sense of the human experience and stronger ties to the unbreakable chains of humanity.

*Quote: William F. Woo, Letters from the Editor: Lessons on Journalism and Life

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4 Responses to “Report: Humanity”

  1. Donna May 13, 2008 at 1:36 PM #

    I think the world would be a much different place if more reporters didn’t report “professionally” and detached. Compassion for our fellow human beings might replace the apathy that is so rampant today. Thank you for making me think.

  2. punchlinewalking May 13, 2008 at 1:47 PM #

    What a beautifully written, powerful post!

  3. rye May 14, 2008 at 12:35 PM #

    This is very well-written. It makes me wonder how different the world might be (or might be perceived to be) if reporting were more honest and “human.” Thank you for this.

  4. Anonymous May 14, 2008 at 3:26 PM #

    That was a beautifully written post. Your honesty and compassion are inspiring. I think that you would make an amazing “human” journalist.

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