Tuesday, October 30, 2012

News Flash: Reporters Are Human

The Aftermath of Sandy Begins to Take Its Toll

I remember watching the coverage after Katrina and seeing reporters and anchors getting royally pissed off at officials they interviewed as they watched the chaos unfold in New Orleans.

So far, none of that in the aftermath of Sandy, though it helps that "You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie" isn't on call at FEMA, along with governors in three states and Mayor Mike in NYC giving regular briefings and giving the impression of staying on top of the devastation to the extent possible.

It was interesting, then, to see an exchange a little while ago on WNBC-TV, where anchors Tom Llamas and Erica Tarantal were doing a Q-and-A with crusty veteran New Jersey reporter Brian Thompson (aobve). They asked him to reflect on what he's seen after working 18 hours straight.

Thompson had spent the morning reporting from Seaside Heights (the home of "Jersey Shore," BTW), which took more than a glancing blow from Sandy. Thompson (literally) took off his reporter's hat to reflect on the preceding hours and began to get emotional, but not because of the devastation he had bore witness to, but because it was his idea to head down there, and he and his crew were trapped there duirng some anxious moments. Not only that, he had encouraged another reporter, Brynn Gingras and her crew to come down there. They were forced to retreat to a hotel, after their live truck was nearly consumed by flood waters.

Thompson got emotional, saying he felt guilty about putting those folks in harm's way. Everyone's OK, but Thompson knows it could have gone in a different direction. And while TV crews are devoted in these situations to going out so we don't have to, it's not worth dying for. Just because you're driving around in an SUV with a satellite dish and microwave connection doesn't make you invincible. It's a lesson worth remembering, though I have an impression that when the next major natural disaster strikes, news directors and those whom they dispatch probably will.

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