Tuesday, January 10, 2012

We celebrate the war correspondents, the medics – and the videographers and backroom news editors

The end of the year summations on television had some ghastly pictures of war, floods, earthquakes. For the special persons who read this blog, it is especially important to acknowledge the coming years’ reports. 

I was watching a panel of foreign correspondents being interviewed about the effect of their work on them: they get the very smells of the dead and dying, suffering in some cases rapes and knockings around. One man told how he maintained his professional discipline when on assignment, cries on the plane homeward.

There is a footnote I would add here. One of the interviewed still added another thought, a dislike of correspondents who swagger about, too tough to feel the hurt about which they write. Some will note, however, these are often on their way to a bar. That ought to be plural, “bars.” 

I don’t believe the “too tough.” What I know about – personally – is denial. In the short run it may be professional discipline, but I don’t think anyone escapes the blows of trauma. “Too tough” is just a price deferred. 

All of us profit from those who make a career out of enduring the on-coming post-traumatic, the ambulance driver, the medic, the policeman, all those firemen. Yes, all those firemen. As one of them said to me, “I’d like to talk to you about it some day; I have seen some awful things.” 

Yet it is also that human with the video camera who is there photographing while others are doing what has to be done. We know why some handheld ones shake, but almost all the lens hold steady, even while the reporters duck their heads. So many make the evening news graphically real to us – local, as well as foreign. I would like to especially thank those backroom news editors, for whom there is no glory, who watch the endless horror and then editor slice out bits so that we – no, I - may see and empathize. They, too, may well pay a price no pension can compensate.

I am going to take a moment to stand in silence, now that Annelie has signed off on the last draft. Would you join me? And then I am going to salute.

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