Posted on

Reporters are humans, too

Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Staff Writer

One of the rules journalists try to abide by is to not get emotionally involved with their subjects.
That’s not always as easy to do, as, say, trying to be objective, especially working for a small community newspaper. Most of the time it’s a pleasant experience seeing the people I’ve written about or have come in contact with through my job.
Then there are those people, say, for example, jurors whom I’ve watched make tough decisions regarding child molestors or someone who was denied a special exception by the Harrison County Board of Zoning Appeals who didn’t handle the decision well. I’m never sure how they will react when I bump into them at the store.
Lately, I had had several conversations with someone who eventually committed suicide. A friend of mine is in jail on fraud charges, and an acquaintance is waiting trial on murder charges.
I’ve gone to fatalities where I knew the victims, and I’ve had to write stories about people who have died.
Recently, I saw proof that I’m not the only reporter whose emotional side occasionally escapes into the open.
While glued to CNN’s coverage last month of the terrorist attacks on America, I added two more of their reporters to my list of favorites. Before Sept. 11, that list included Bernard Shaw, who recently left his anchor post at CNN, and Christiane Amanpour, one of the few females who report from foreign soil. My high regard for them came during their coverage of Desert Storm and the Gulf War.
This go-round, Aaron Brown impressed me with the way he always seemed to ask the questions I was wanting someone ask. I also liked the way he didn’t report the events in a monotone; rather, he sounded like a real person. But it was Elizabeth Cohen who grabbed my attention as she displayed great compassion while interviewing dozens and dozens of people who had relatives and friends “missing” after the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed minutes after they were struck by two commercial airplanes.
Although I was hundreds of miles away from New York City, I could feel each person’s pain. I wondered how Cohen was able to hear one story after another, each told through tears and sadness, without showing any emotion.
While we don’t know how Cohen was dealing with the demands of reporting such a gruesome story off camera, we saw her holding up on camera.
That is, until about three days into the tragedy.
Cohen cried, on camera. Sure, CNN could have cut back to Brown, but that didn’t happen. By going ahead live with Cohen even as she cried, the network revealed what many people tend to forget: reporters are humans, too.