Like much of the world I have watched the videos of the tsunami that hit Japan with morbid curiosity. To see the wall of water and collected junk rolling across farmland and through houses was one of the most horrific things I have ever seen. But it draws me to wonder at the news people.

Life is dangerous, we know, and I am no helicopter pilot but to see a human being riding a motorcycle along a road and not to drop down to try to rescue them as the water moves inexorably towards them seems to me to smack of indifference. It reminded me of seeing dozens of horses dying during a drought in Australia and the film crew filming their terror, their struggle without ever trying to bring water to them. You have to film it as it happens; that is real; that is what the people want to see. The film has become more important than life.

When a film crew appears everything changes. It is no longer cruel  life just happening, because they are there. They are witnessing death and to do nothing to try to help denies their humanity. The person on the motorbike may have been doomed, they may not have been able to do anything, but that is not true every time.

The news is not more important.

2 comments On Japan

  • I agree Daniel, that as viewers it is shocking to see a person in distress and waiting for the emergency services and conclude that the camera crew or journalists did nothing to help. However, this is a broader issue when it comes to applying the principles and codes of practice in journalism. For instance, it would skew the news if everytime we saw a disaster we saw that person being aided by the camera crew. This would convey the impression that people are not really in danger. It would numb the viewers humane response. Journalism is often about promoting people to make changes in their lives based on informed opinion.

    If filmmakers are producing a wildlife documentary, they cannot stop and feed or water wildlife that is under threat, for the same reason. It is their job to depict the drama, and perhaps to provide information so that the viewer can get involved in conservation of habitat and species. They cannot commit themselves to conservation without changing their profession! They would no longer be journalists if every time they witnessed a drama they stopped to assist. It is difficult to imagine recording the scene and not wishing to help, and you will hear of many examples where journalists are SO caught up in the story that they stay behind afterwards to give humanitarian aid. But this could not happen on every assignment or the news would never reach us.

    Just a few thoughts from the journalists perspective.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      I know the journalists have to remain objective, though the first journalists were covering a Civil War here in the UK and war zones are unique, I just do not think we lose our humanity because we are ‘covering’ a story. I actually think that is often an excuse for simply getting the best footage. I do agree about those who stay – I especially remember the Ethiopian famine when the sheer scale left even herculean effort beggared and it wouldn’t do anyone any good to refrain from eating and drinking whilst filming. Perhaps it is the scale of things that is the limit of our intentions?

      You know when the cameras are not rolling people risk their lives to save others but it is a judgement only those there, at the time, can make.

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