I’ve long thought of journalists with envy, because they get to write as a job, and they always have assignments to produce more written words.
More often, though, and less charitably, I’ve considered many journalists as insensitive, self-serving individuals, who grab for a story no matter how much it costs those whose suffering is told in those stories – stories of accidents, disasters, crimes, loss, and sorrow.
Recently I watched a DVD that has, thankfully, changed my perspective:
Breaking News, Breaking Down.
In this award-winning documentary, Mike Walter, a news journalist with 25 years experience, turns the camera and the story on himself and to his colleagues. He tells the stories they live when they document the tragedies of other human beings, day after day after day.
Specifically, Breaking News, Breaking Down tells about the narrator’s – and other journalists’ – personal response to the events of September 11, 2001 and follows with their experience at the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. It highlights the story of John McCusker, a journalist who was so impacted by the trauma in New Orleans, including what Katrina did to his own home, that he experienced a devastating emotional breakdown.
But the documentary doesn’t end on a bleak note. It describes the simple strategy a group of journalists followed, to help themselves and each other heal, and to find hope. They chose a place of retreat to rest and recover, and helped themselves heal further by providing physical help to New Orleans residents whose homes Katrina had torn apart.
In watching Breaking News, Breaking Down, it’s been most important for me to realize that, when journalists view another person’s trauma, report on a tragedy, tell the world of a disaster, it takes an emotional toll.
Some journalists attempt to close off those emotions. Others move to another line of work. But most journalists just keep on going... telling the world’s painful stories, and absorbing one emotional hit at a time.
To see a trailer of Breaking News, Breaking Down:
To see an interview with Mike Walter about Breaking News, Breaking Down: http://nationalpress.org/blogs/newsbag/how-i-got-the-story-mike-walter/
To borrow a library copy: www.calgarypubliclibrary.com