On Air: To report – or to help ?

Mark came across this blog  on CNN.  A  senior, experienced and respected correspondent, John Vause, writes frankly about being in China in a car with an empty seat as hundreds of people ask him to take them out of the quake zone. If you read it, you’ll see he still isn’t sleeping after the answer he gave.

When should reporters stop and help, and when should they simply report ?

You’ve been wanting to talk about it and you’d be pleased to know we’re doing this story Today. We have a brilliant cast of International reporters, willing to talk about what it’s like in the field, to share their personal experiences with us and to tell us what they believe reporters should be doing in situations like these.

If you have any questions you’d like to put to them, if you want to take part in the discussion, if you have any issues you’d like to raise .. then send us your contact details (which we won’t publish ofcourse) to get you on tonight’s programme.

Tonight’s cast: Christiane Amanpour (CNN correspondent), Jeremy Bowen (BBC Middle East editor), Greg Marinovich (Bang Bang Club), Michael Nicholson (ITN reporter) AND John Vause..



107 Responses to “On Air: To report – or to help ?”

  1. 1 ZK
    May 21, 2008 at 16:59

    Very, very difficult question. Ultimately in such circumstances, covering the aftermath of a disaster or war, you will come across such unfortunate cases.

    As a journalist your first duty is to report the story. As a human being your first instinct is to help those suffering. So I guess the question is what do you see yourself as more importantly, a human being who could stop to help, or a journalist sending the story out for others to learn about and take action?

    It’s not a question I could answer.

  2. 2 Mark Sandell
    May 21, 2008 at 17:48

    Thanks ZK, i’m sure there is no easy answer but Mr Vause – with all his experience and reputation, is still wrestling with it. I think it’s commendable that he’s opened it up for debate (many of the posted comments on CNN are fascinating, and some are very passionate). I can imagine a WHYS with some experienced correspondents from around the world debating this with you.

  3. 3 eric
    May 21, 2008 at 18:04

    if anyone does not know the answer to this question, they need to look deep inside their soul. when people are suffering or in need everything else is inconsequencial

  4. 4 Clara
    May 21, 2008 at 18:26

    I totally agree that they need no mental health professionals. Most of them are going through are normal reactions, but what specialists tend to do is to diagnose a disease. I think the efforts should be focus on family reunification. People recover from those traumatic experiences in the family and in the community they live. They do not need to be treated as someone with a disease.

  5. 5 John in Salem
    May 21, 2008 at 18:31

    I don’t feel any ambivalence about this question – there is a time to be a detached professional reporter and a time to be a compassionate human being. In the face of such need and with resources to help it is not the time to be detached. Other reporters who were not in that situation could report those stories that needed to be told – Vause and his crew weren’t the only reporters in the area.
    Allowing people to die that could be saved just for the sake of a story is taking one’s profession too far. These people will never forget that their lives were valued less than an exclusive report.
    Mr.Vause SHOULD be losing some sleep.

  6. 6 Will Rhodes
    May 21, 2008 at 18:51

    The only answer I can give is that he is on a mission to report what he sees. There should be people near him that can help with the humanitarian aid part, if there isn’t then there is something wrong with the system.

    His job should come first – the basic reasoning to that is while he is bringing it to the world the world can begin to offer help. He needs to report to keep the story on the front pages of the newspapers and on prime-time until that aid gets to the people who needs it.

    Once he has done all he can to bring that aid in – he can then struggle with helping those people on a one to one basis.

  7. May 21, 2008 at 18:55

    Hello Precious Mark… Simple, just report the story in the best way you can, and at the same time help as many innocent civilians as you can… All of that should be within the limits of your abilities, not beyond them… After all, you’re not a superman right ?! With my love.. Yours forever, Lubna.

  8. 8 Zak
    May 21, 2008 at 18:56

    Is not Alan Johnston the clearest example of the line that reporters must adhere to? When he was taken against his will that was beyond the limit of a reporters duty and a disgrace to his profession; however anything short of that in a disaster must be considered within the bound of journalism. Is that correspondent not taking a story from these people, do news companies not pay people for stories many times CNN definitely does, so why can’t this reporter pay with a ride? In a situation that’s solely a disaster the choice to be ambivalent is only unconscionable apathy.
    “Don’t gain the world and lose your soul” – Bob Marley

  9. May 21, 2008 at 19:37

    Hello Precious Zak… When Alan Johnston was kidnapped in the Gaza strip a year ago, he was only doing his job, which was telling the untold story of the Gaza strip to the whole world… Alan was punished because he has done something which is to some what so called humans an unforgivable crime : TELLING THE TRUTH !! His kidnappers thought that by kidnapping him they’d forever silence the voice of truth and freedom, but they forgot that the bright and shining sun can never be hidden by a small black piece of cloth.. Alan Johnston is a huge source of pride to his own profession, to the BBC, and to the humanity as a whole… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna.

  10. May 21, 2008 at 21:03

    Hi WHYSers!

    I must say I am in total agreement with John in Salem on this one, Mark. To me the answer is clear – the objectification of suffering almost as if it is something in a museum which makes itself available to reporters with their carefully schooled air of detachment is tantamount to contributing to the suffering.

    Surely, I am not accusing Mr. Vause of anything in that regard. However, there comes a point at which basic human compassion kicks in over and above the desire to appear detached and disaffected by the conditions underwhich one is reporting. Mr. Vause’s commitment to his professionalism is commendable, however, whither the humanity?

    The over-arching commitment to the news values of “good journalism” can sometimes prove far more problematic than is sometimes considered. Too often, reporters, especially those “from the outside” seem to feel that theirs is only a vocation concerned with “getting the story”. Usually, this is done in what I think is a pseudo-clinical and supposedly scientific manner, often without much concern for how their actions impact the objects of their news reports. I have always wondered about this, even when I was a student in some of these classes back in undergrad.

  11. May 21, 2008 at 21:18

    Amen, Zak! Amen, Lubna!

    While, I have the greatest respect for the news and for the reporters who tell these stories, often at great personal risks, in the cases of those in war zones and the like, I think the objectification of suffering is truly worrisome. The presumed neutrality of human emotions sometimes created by the lens of a camera or the news narrative can be a little dangerous, as it creates the impression that the suffering has no reality to it. Indeed, there is always the very real fear of exploitation under some of these circumstances.

    I am not pointing fingers but I am interested in knowing how modern journalism training acccomadates these demands which are placed on reporters and news crews, especially in declared disaster zones like China, Burma as well as Iraq, Darfur and Kenya, as other examples? Do you only tell the story and how is that any different from offering to assist – where and when you can, a story subject in obvious need?

  12. 12 Syed Hasan Turab
    May 21, 2008 at 22:13

    John & other jouralist’s are doing there duty very effenciently, we suppose to appreciate them by way of doing some thing practically, hello I am talking to the competant authorities & Governments of the world.
    Those who think beyond there personal issues they are really great so do the family of Journalists & real public media authorities.
    My deep sorrow to Burmees & Chinese nations, you are really great & know how to survive.

  13. 13 Zak
    May 21, 2008 at 22:19

    Hi Lubna – thank you for highlighting what possibly I left too abstract in my post; I did not mean that it was Alan Johnston who was out of line. But rather his kidnappers were. What I meant was this, in the position Alan was in, doing his job, the circumstances got too dangerous beyond his control and that is a situation where any journalist is no longer obligated to his job. My point is, where Alan Johnston was willing to risk his life in the circumstances of his job to help people the same rules should apply to any journalist where there is imminent danger or in a disaster area specifically. That is in direct contrast to the actions of John Vause who was in a situation where the only danger was to the people around him. This reporters obligation to tell the story of these people doesn’t end with them laying wounded in the street begging for his help. It should end where he reports that and follows up to say he saw to it that some of those wounded people got help. For is that not the goal of his reporting as he stated it: ‘he hoped somebody would come along to help’? So if a journalists aspirations are goals then every means the journalist had to help these people should’ve been the follow up story; whatever the cost even if it meant risking it all. Instead this man chose to panic essentially because the only thing one can wonder out of his story is what happened to those people and it doesn’t seem this guy will ever have that answer – it’s anybodies guess if he even got a name. Unfortunately that’s a prime example of corporate media America, and the famous line from Marley’s great song highlights how easily that can happen: a reporter can only see what ‘more’ he can gain in the story; not what’s really within it.

    A better piece of media that you might really enjoy Lubna is the story of teenager who worked as a youth in Iraq before the war and made it through told by This American Life, maybe you heard of him: Haider Hamza

    Peace, Zak

  14. 14 Dennis :)
    May 22, 2008 at 05:58


    HELP and then report!

    Dennis, Madrid in the U.S.A.

  15. May 22, 2008 at 13:19

    Good reporters are supposed to be detached, so as to give credibility to their stories and to reach an audience of different persuasions. A report embedded with personal opinions and attitudes is likely to attract a specific section only.

    There are of course reporters who work for news agencies known for their bias and ideological leanings. So the reporter has to reflect that. But for an independent reporter working for an independent and neutral news agency the reporting should be done professionally as the job of reporting is to make people know about facts and not to try to make them take a certain position.

    There are cases in which reporters find themselves reporting in difficult situations or in areas in abject poverty or plunged in disaster. During their reporting they have all the facilities like food and shelter to report on people without a home or food. They become just witnesses of situations they can do nothing about, but which is a stuff for reporting a story.

    The best help reporters can do professionally is to report the truth and nothing but the truth, especially about political scandals or abuses to make people aware of what’s around them. Getting personally implicated can have an effect on dealing with a situation that should be reported with total objectivity. A reporter who says, for example, in his/her report “ I was sad to see so many dead in injured people in an earthquake.” isn’t the same as the one who says, “ there were many dead in injured people in an earthquake.”

  16. 16 Virginia Davis
    May 22, 2008 at 14:39

    I agree with ZK – first comment. Virginia in Oregon

  17. 17 Bob in Queensland
    May 22, 2008 at 15:12

    This is the ethical question faced by every reporter and camerama

  18. 18 Bob in Queensland
    May 22, 2008 at 15:18

    This is the ethical question faced by every reporter and cameraman covering a story where people are suffering. There is no easy answer.

    However, I would invite you to consider what might have happened if, in 1984, Michael Buerk and Mo Amin had tried to help a few Ethiopian orphans instead of finishing their story. There would have been no Live Aid and no worldwide help for those millions of people.

    At the other end of the spectrum though, it’s possible to become so involved in “covering the story” that you lose all perspective. I have, unfortunately, seen several occasions when cameramen have continued filming their own deaths rather than even attempting to take cover. If they can become this involved, what is the hope for them keeping their own sense of humanity?

  19. 19 gary
    May 22, 2008 at 15:24

    Clearly, reporting is an important activity. Because reporters actively seek to be on the scene and to witness momentous events, the laws of probability ensure they will at times be successful regardless of their innate abilities. As is said: “Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn.” Probability may also award them the honor of “sole observer.” In such instances, their responsibility to chronically the occurrence is in direct proportion to its importance to humanity. An earthquake, or a typhoon, is an important thing; but it is no more important than any other destructive natural phenomenon. Any number of gruesome scenes may be presented on the 6 o’clock news. Beyond the first one, they are probably not individually important to humanity; but are, or were, much more important to the victims. The bottom line here is simple: Reporters are also human! When you (as reporter) arrive at the point when you ask yourself the question: “Should I help, or continue reporting?” The time has come for you to switch on you pocket recorder, give the maximum humanitarian assistence your capabilities allow, and keep talking.

  20. 20 Venessa
    May 22, 2008 at 15:24

    While people may be appalled by the objectification of human crisis it doesn’t stop those people from reading the story. I’m not sure that I would take the same action but Mr. Vause had a duty to his job to report a story for all those people out there appalled by his lack of action. Obviously his decision haunts him which demonstrates the compassion he has for the human suffering he has seen in his career. He is conscious that the decision he made wad difficult; those who criticize him are judging him from the safety and comfort of their own homes.

    If there are hundreds of people looking for rides and medical care how do you decide who is more important? I suspect that if he had helped just one person others might criticize his decision about who he chose to help or why he didn’t do more.

  21. May 22, 2008 at 15:43

    Hi WHYSers!

    @ Venessa. I am certainly not suggesting that Mr. Vause was not to take the action that he did. I am, in fact, asking whether the two things are mutual exclusives. I remain steadfast in my point that there is often a way in which reports can objectify reality to the extent that the events seem unreal and distant. In those cases, I wonder how might the report be told in such a way as to evoke real action in terms of mobilising action for positive change. Surely, our intention is to not just tell the story for the sake of it. Otherwise, there would be little, if any point to the business of news which is aimed at informing us to the extent that we are able to act with the information we have.

    My point remains, where do we draw that line? As you noted, who does he help and who does he not help? Unlike you, I am not so big on the objectivity argument. So, help those who you can and report on the facts simultaneously. Indeed, in such situations there is no clear cut answer which is best. However, assuming that you can only report the news (and not help) would seem to suggest that that is a more important responsibility under the circumstances. I disagree!

  22. May 22, 2008 at 15:55

    The fact that we are discussing Burma and this issue on WHYS shows that Mr Vause has helped the victims of burma by making his experience an international event. People are interested and as a result will put pressure of their governments and charities to help with the crisis.

    Its not a nice thing to say but sending the car full of injured people to a hospital, which might be hours away will only potentially help a minority of people. More will be saved by fairly reporting the story.

    Still saying that i really feel for the guy, i think if i was in that situation I would take out my recording kit, write/post my story and work with other journalistis to share resources, to allow the car to bring aid or take people to hospital.

    As lubna said we are not super human and can only help as much as we are able to x

  23. May 22, 2008 at 16:34

    Lubna raised an excellent point yesterday in relation to this topic – helping people and reporting the story are all part of the same process. Indeed, many are helped by these reports as Venessa’s, Abdelilah and Gary’s comments suggest. However, as I noted earlier and building further on Lubna’s point, as I understand it: how do we decide what to report under such circumstances? And, how do our own perspectives, whether they appear to be neutral to the extent that they seem objective (or not) impact our actions in that regard?

    Indee, objectivity presumes a sort of omniscient neutrality and an all encompassing sense of awareness that allows one to be fair, balanced and unbiased. It claims that we can know all things and, somehow, having known all things act in the best interests of all by that same action, regarless of what that action is. I am not so sure that that is always true, especially of humans reporters included.

    The very act of choosing to report some things and not others immediately locks us into certain values which are themselves biased to the extent that they assume a sort of “naturalised” and self evident reality of truth. How we make the report must ultimately be impacted by these motives, thoughts, desires, actions, etc.

    That Mr. Vause was troubled to the extent that he posted his experiences at his blog on CNN reflects the problematic nature of that process which presumes, a sort of imperviousness to the grim realities of life at, in this instance, “Ground Zero”. I am not so sure what I would do if I were in his situation and, for that, he must be thanked for daring to speak and drawing attention to his own shortcomings – such as they are.

    However, I rather suspect that modern journalistic training has to become much more become aware of these demands which are placed on reporters and train them accordingly. How do they engage with such realities? Under the present circumstances, this seems obvious to me. There is no one or easy way, but assuming that the “story” has greater importance under such circumstances does, indeed, beg questioning.

  24. May 22, 2008 at 18:05

    Hello again Precious Zak… Thank you sooooo much for clearing up what you were thinking of regarding what happened to Alan Johnston in the Gaza strip… Actually I’m a huge fan of Alan Johnston, both as a journalist and as a human being… You know what Precious Zak ?! In certain places of this world like the Gaza strip or Baghdad for example, only by telling their untold story to the world, you’d be offering a huge amount of help to ordinary people living in those places… And to Precious Agostinho and Hannah my love : THANKS A MILLION to both of you guys ! :-)… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna…

  25. 25 Zak
    May 22, 2008 at 18:16

    Agreed whole heartedly, Alan Johnston risking his life was the most help he could give the people in his circumstances – I’m only saying that the best journalists should adhere to the same standards and use all means necessary in a disaster to help. Unfortunately in America the corporate interest dominates the stories told. But there are a few examples to the contrary. The co-hosts of NPR All Things Considered were in China and they’re reporting was involved with people getting aid.

  26. 26 Rabin, Kathmandu
    May 22, 2008 at 18:48

    You can raise this type of issues any time you like and you’ll get endless comments from people debating over the issue every single time, some saying u should should stick to your profession while others arguing you are a human first then only a reporter. As far as my opinion is concerned, I would say that a reporter should prioritize the news reporting. After all there are thousands of rescuers and experts to help the suffering people, isn’t it? How much difference could your carrying one single wounded person to a hospital make? Having said that I’m not saying you should be non-humane while being a journalist. I’m just saying that reporting the facts to the world as you see it is also helping millions of other people.

  27. May 22, 2008 at 19:27

    @ Rabin,

    There is no doubt that reporting the facts is helping. However, I am not so sure that your assumption that your act of human kindness might not make a difference is correct. I am not even sure that the prioritising of the news, as you say, is always about reporting the story in a clear cut and specific way.

    In fact, it could be that telling the story may well also include the journalist’s offer of assistance to some random soul in need of help. Truth be told, I am not sure what the real answer is myself. However, I take issue with the suggestion that the only and most important type of assistance to be rendered in a such a context is “getting the story”. To the extent that this is so, it must be asked what about the person telling the story? Is s/he not in some way connected to the suffering as it unfolds? Are you first, last and always a reporter? Is it that we have no more connection to the context of our reports than that suggested by this hyper clincal detachment? Wringing our hands and saying: “I am here to do my job” sounds very much like a cop out to me.

    That said, if I were faced with similar circumstances I may well have done the same thing. However, I do believe that sensitivity training would not kill news reporters. After all, you are telling a story that in another context could well be about you. If the tables were turned, would you not want to be assisted, regardless of the outcome of that assistance? Appearing to play God by laying claims to a sort of larger-than-life sense of objectivity is also part of the problem in this instance, I think.

  28. 28 Rabin
    May 23, 2008 at 05:38


    As you might’ve noticed in my previous post, I’m not too sure about what one should be doing in such circumstances. If I was wounded lying in the ground and saw a car passing by, I’d definitely cry for help and hope he’d listen. But at the same time, if I was speeding past thousands of victims to report a news, then most probably I’d ignore the plea thinking I can’t help them even if I want to.
    But one point you raised in your post and I liked was ‘getting the story’. Yes you’re there to get the story and you should be doing that. And like you said the story could be how and in what circumstances you got the story or how you got wounded trying to get the story or you saving someone’s life while getting the story.

  29. May 23, 2008 at 13:54

    Some journalists become so involved with the events they report about. There is the example of Kevin Carter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Carter whose work drew praise and condemnation in almost equal measures until finally, haunted by the horrors of the scenes he had witnessed, and beset by financial problems, he committed suicide at the age of 33.

    The picture for which Carter was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography on May 23, 1994 at Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library is an example horrors of the scenes he had witnessed before committing suicide. http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1385/1016152029_42a69f11ea.jpg
    For journalists, “doomed” to report just about such disasters are unlikely to remain indifferent. If they can do nothing, they’re at least beset by the memories of what they have witnessed.

    Journalism remains a hard job, especially for those who are activists, and because of this they can’t remain detached. They try to help by whatever means through connections and by using their reports to raise awareness about issues close to their hearts.

  30. 30 Mark Sandell
    May 23, 2008 at 14:12

    Abdelilah many thanks for this point. Kevin Carter features in this book “The Bang Bang Club” and is one of the most riveting books about journalism i’ve ever read. It’s harrowing but i’d recommend it to anyone- the book also deals with the story of the picture you refer to.
    We will be discussing this issue, we’re just working on the cast. Your suggestions welcome…

  31. May 23, 2008 at 18:45

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the book you suggested.

    As suggestions, I have CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who covered Rwanda genocide. She has been on WHYS when Alan Johnston was hostage in Gaza. I hope she can have time to be on the show again.

    I also think of BBC correspondent Jeremy Bowen who stood helpless when Abed Takoush ,a driver working with a BBC camera crew covering the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon was killed after his car had been hit by a single tank round. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/760439.stm

    It will be a great achievement if you can get them both, taking into account their possible heavy schedules.

  32. 32 Usherer
    May 24, 2008 at 10:43

    I feel quite ,sympathetic for the victims of China & Miyanmar,.Feel really lot to be done for them . For this if one’s reporting can bring more help to a large number of victims ,than giving lift to a few,& by this if there is chance of getting distracted from one’s goal ,then one has to ignore this humanitarian issuge for a larger gain to the victims & carry on with his duty .This question will never be answered to every bodies satiafaction!It will remain as a issue for ever….

  33. May 24, 2008 at 16:54

    @ Abdelilah, Mark, Rabin,

    Very insightful discussion. Could you say when it will be on? Please do not tell me that I have missed it. Otherwise I will be deeply distressed. I wrote on the blog which asked where and when do you listen that I listened in my car on 104 FM. That is more accurately in reference to the BBC. When WHYS is going on, I am often caught up in some major activity in the office and, therefore, have very little time to listen to the radio. So, if this discussion has already happened then I will have to go online and search in the archives. There is an archive for WHYS, right? Otherwise, I am restricted to blogging about this topic, which is not so bad but hearing the discussion would be immensely helpful to my interests. Thanks!

    Well, that said, I am happy to hear Mark’s suggestions to Abdelilah as well as his own recommendations about guests for the show. I look forward to this very riveting discussion.

  34. 34 Mark Sandell
    May 30, 2008 at 16:47

    Hello Agostinho and Abdelillah,the discussion is set for Monday and Karnie’s secured BBC Correspondent Jeremy Bowen, CNN’s Christiane Ammanpour and, i’m delighted to say, Greg Marinovich from the Bang Bang Club.
    Thanks for your suggestions, now keep the questions coming.
    all best

  35. May 30, 2008 at 17:05

    Hi All

    We have also managed to secure an interview with Michael Nicholson. Read his story:


  36. 36 Ayo
    May 30, 2008 at 17:53

    The reporter should have helped the people. The quake has been covered by so many news media outlets and so him doing a repeat is redundant and is akin to beating a drum over and over again. He could wedge a story out of the people he was taking to the hospital. make retun trips and interview the people, the hospital, see how the hospital was coping witht the influx of the wounded and he could have a different angle to the whole story, whilst still lending a helping hand. as it is he did not and I am not surprised he cant sleep.

  37. 38 Zak
    May 30, 2008 at 20:08

    Based upon looking at that video above I found corresponding to his story on 5/13; you be the judge of where he was going that was in the ‘other direction’. He didn’t give another report for another 3 days on 5/16.

    I do believe his first responsibility was to the story but in point of fact he never moved in any direction while doing it, at least not what made it to air and he would have known that. So my guess is beyond what he knew wouldn’t make it to air he just wanted to go back to his hotel and that was the other direction, the light was clearly fading anyway.

    It just seems that the bigger cause was the Humanitarian code of ethics to extend beyond the journalistic. He had done what was required of him and it was a moral choice he made not to go on beyond his job, not a journalistic one, and that’s deplorable. He probably could have made a story even if that’s not what his editors wanted by ferrying those people to the hospital. That’s the other part of the problem I have with his actions, he didn’t have the tenacity to push on even beyond requirement, like Alan Johnston did even when he was warned to leave, he stayed.

  38. May 30, 2008 at 23:50

    Thanks to BBC WHYS for its effort to secure an interview with prominent journalists.

    I have some questions to Christian Amanpour, Jeremy Bowen, and Michael Nicholson.
    I have a general question: Do you think Kevin Carter was a martyr of involved journalism?

    My questions to Christian Amanpour:
    1) How do you personally cope with reporting from disastrous areas like those of genocide in Rwanda and war in Bosnia?

    2) Have you ever sought to help someone while reporting from such areas?

    My question to Jeremy Bowen:
    1) You’ve been reporting for the BBC from the Middle East since 1995. How do you keep a balance between objective reporting and having good rapport with the different parties in the area you cover, namely the Israelis, the Palestinians of all sections and the Lebanese – Christians, Sunnis and Shiaas?

    2) How do you cope personally when you hear about the death of someone you interviewed in an armed attack?

    3) Surely you must have friends in the region from all warring parties. How do you professionally manage to keep your neutrality? Do you have a stand on what is going on like the current blockade in Gaza, but which you can’t say in your reports?

    4) On May 11, 2008, you and your camera operator came under fire in Mount Lebanon. Nobody was injured and the incident was caught on camera. But you kept reporting despite the shots were fired at you and your crew. Does this mean when you’re covering events like this, you become oblivious of the dangers around you as you’re carried by the scenes you’re reporting about?

    My question to Michael Nicholson,
    1) How do you evaluate your rescue and adoption of Natasha? Do you think sometimes journalists should show a human face in the difficult situations they’re reporting about instead of keeping concerned just about professional journalism?

    Abdelilah Boukili
    Marrakesh , Morocco

  39. May 31, 2008 at 01:25

    To Zak,
    Last Thursday, I saw John Vause “happily “reporting on the controversy created by Sharon Stone, who described China earthquake as karma. Dior dropped Sharon Stone in China. The movie industry is going to lose about $1billion because many cinemas aren’t going to show her movies any more. He brilliantly ended his report by saying that Sharon Stone’s remarks were also a Karma to her.

  40. 41 viola anderson
    May 31, 2008 at 04:56

    If I were in that situation, I might ask myself, “If that injured person were someone I cared very much about, such as my child, what would I do?”

  41. 42 Jeff Minter
    May 31, 2008 at 16:35

    Job or humanity?

    Nice to see the CNN reporter and plenty of commenters are in a dilemma over this “difficult” and “complicated” issue.

    I don’t see how we can be the authority on human rights when we ourselves are not human.

  42. 43 VictorK
    June 1, 2008 at 12:13

    Don’t overlook how some news organisations attempt to ‘help’ by reporting things in a certain way.

    The BBC is as hostile to Robert Mugabe as he is to them and its reporting is obviously in favour of change in Zimbabwe and pro-MDC. The Western media’s coverage of apartheid South Africa was never mere reportage. The current US administration is judged and accused as often as it is reported on by the media, with journalists often going out of their way to find or invent a US connection to stories that will allow a negative judgement to slip in (reports about Ethiopian troops in Somalia, for example, often describe them as ‘US-backed’ or ‘US-supported, just as certain governments in the Muslim world are described as pro-American and pro-Western, usually as a way of casting doubt on their independence and legitimacy). When Alan Johnston was being held hostage a senior BBC executive called for his release by describing him as ‘a friend’ of the Palestinian people, which I thought a surprisingly frank admission. The Ethiopian famine a few years ago was reported on as a matter of ‘propaganda’, with the clear intention of provoking sympathy and assistance across the world. The position of women in the Muslim world is never reported on as a matter of fact by Western broadcasters, but as an injustice crying out to be remedied.

    Some of these examples are commendably humanitarian, while others are simply expressions of political prejudice. But It does seem to me that journalism – unless its of the investigative and admittedly partisan sort – shouldn’t be about pushing either humanitarian or political views. Giving practical help, when you’re on the spot, is a lot more acceptable and a lot less compromising than helping a cause through partisan journalism. The first is compatible with professional, impartial journalism; the second isn’t.

  43. June 2, 2008 at 11:42

    This link may be of interest: http://tinyurl.com/6clf59. It’s a blog by a Reuters photographer who reckons he ‘blew’ covering an earthquake by not doing his job as a journalist.

  44. 45 Brett
    June 2, 2008 at 13:00

    What a horrible and difficult situation to be placed in! My heart goes out to those journalists placed in those positions and those they could not help 😦

  45. June 2, 2008 at 13:24

    You’ve Come a Long Way, Miss Amanpour

    TEHRAN – People in Iran remember you best for your interview with former president Mohammad Khatami in 1977.
    You have come a long way since, and so has Iran, if I may say so.
    Thirty years after the Islamic Revolution and in the wake of the Nineteenth Anniversary of the Demise of Ayatollah Khomeini, what is your candid view of Iran’s political future?
    Do you regret your ties with Iran and is it a handicap in the profession?

  46. 47 John Augustine
    June 2, 2008 at 14:56

    To report or to help: must these be separate options?

    To report is to help. One must do one’s bit, and to the best of one’s ability. Reporters are privilege to a tacit special immunity from “enemy” status. Regardless of the intent of the individual, any action which crosses the line between reporting and cooperating with anyone who might be perceived as an enemy of anyone else, puts all reporters at risk of losing this special immunity.

    But then Dith Pran comes to mind. He was, of course a fellow journalist, and one doesn’t leave ones own behind if one can help it. The point remaining that there are exceptions to every rule.

    But sometimes there aren’t. Case in point:

    Regarding the use of torture to obtain information. To apply torture in the name of, with the tacit approval of, or with any hint of being remotely associated with any particular body of persons, puts each and every one of those persons at legitimate invitation to reciprocal treatment.

    But I digress.

    John D. Augustine
    Milwaukee, WI USA

  47. June 2, 2008 at 15:02

    The definition of news is subjective and usually political. If news is defined, in this particular case, as a work of mercy or a humanitarian work, or it is defined in terms of the value of human life, or it is defined in terms of the story of the lost sheep, out of 100 sheep, told by Jesus Christ, taking the wounded and the people in the line of danger in the car constitute THE news that should be reported. Not the number of people who have died or the degree of havoc done by the earth quake.

    Prince Pieray Odor
    Lagos, Nigeria

  48. 49 Ogola Benard
    June 2, 2008 at 15:03

    Definately a journalist has to report the story because that is what he is for and that is why he
    is at the scene at that particulat time.
    He has to fullfil his public demand by breaking the
    news. What will he have to tell his editor? Remember
    he is not the only person at the time.
    However at difficult situations he has to by taking
    into consideration the mental logic- supposing the reverse was true, who would help.
    Journalist ever uncover evil and therefore they have to
    live as an example.

  49. 50 Anthony
    June 2, 2008 at 15:14

    By reporting they are helping. Without these pictures and stories, people wouldn’t really care!

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  50. June 2, 2008 at 15:18

    Good afternoon my Precious gang ! My question to Jeremy Bowen from the BBC is : Have you been ever been put in a situation where you wanted so badly to do a particular story because you felt that it’s a hugely important story that’ll provoke so many reaction but you had to quit doing it because of either security concerns or even life-threats ?! If yes then when, where and how ?! With my love… Yours forever, Lubna…

  51. 52 kpellyhezekiah
    June 2, 2008 at 15:36

    This is a very simple situation as far as I am concern. The journalist must help the people(morality demands that)as well as carry out the reportage(duty requires that). To me it is another chance to implement one of the golden principles of life which is “give unto ceaser what is ceaser’s and unto God what is God’s” The journalist was sent there to cover the news and he has the professional duty to do so. But to be at the spot of action and not lending a helping hand with the flimsy excuse of ‘covering the news’ is to be inhuman and morally imoral!!! Is it not the disaster that sent him there in the 1st place? And will he be running his comentory for 24hr/24hrs non-stop? Would his report not be enriched when he participates directly in the rescue operation to have a first hand feeling of what it means to remove a 3yr old child from the rubbles of a collapse building or a roof top or a burning inferno? Would he not be more appreciated by the listening audience world wild when with his headphone and mic stripped on he is holding a dead 1yr old child in his hand which he managed to bring out of a derailed train alive only to see the baby passing away right in his hands? Journalist have the duty to report the news but when responsibility beckons there cannot be any excuse here

  52. June 2, 2008 at 15:37

    If you have two vehicles and 1 empty seat, why did the occupants of the ‘not full’ vehicle pile into the other one, so what if it ws a squeeze, and then used the free vehicle for the little relief work that could have been done.

    But on the other hand China is a stinking (literally) rich country that could afford ANY amount of relief infrastructure and get it in place in a matter of hours.
    The Chinese administration are as sick in the head, dizzy with greed, basically Uncaring and obviously very very stupid people.

    It is disgusting that the government did NOTHING.

    They should be ashamed of themselves and it is they who should be worrying about the plight of their people not a journalist trying to do a job.

    Bush was a great example of the total lack of courage and leadership with Katrina, China is obviously following the great man’s example.

  53. 54 nick in USA
    June 2, 2008 at 15:45

    I don’t know why Vause drew the line here. Helping these sick and injured people could have been the story. Going to the hospital could have been the story. What was so important that he couldn’t help these people? Yes, remaining detached can be important in areas where there is a war, but in a natural disaster? I don’t think there is any need. You don’t need to take sides in a natural disaster, you just need to take care of people the best you can. If that means getting the story, then by all means do it, but I’m not sure what would have been lost if he hadn’t just kept driving.

    Remaining detached for the sake of remaining detached was the easy way out. I feel sorry for him, but he should be regretting his decision.

  54. June 2, 2008 at 15:57

    This is a very simple thing to me. The journalist has a professional duty to perform so he must report the news but at the same time he has a moral obligation to lend a helping hand whiles he is there. It is another opportunity to implement the golden principle of “give unto ceaser what is ceaser and unto God what; is God” To refuse to help in such a situation is inhuman and morally imoral!!! Is it not the tragic event that became news for which reason he went there in the first place? Would his reportage not be enriched and him be more appreciated by his audience when for instance they see him with his headphone and mic stripped on holding a 3yr old child whom he had just brought out from the rubbles of a collapsed building or a 6yr old kid he has taken from the roof of a house in a flooded environment or a 5yr child that he snatched personally from the flames of a burning hotel. Would he not know the depth of grief families experience if after he had just come out of a derailed train with a 1yr old baby in his hands and then see the baby brief her last and dies? Come on, fellow journalist, please, let us stop hiding under the cloak of ‘duty’ and lend a helping hand when we are confroted with such situations. This is what will make the listening public appreciate us and our work better. And they will rise to our defence when we are in trouble. After all we do not report continously 24hr/24hrs when we are at the spot. God bless us all

  55. June 2, 2008 at 16:06

    1) What personal sacrifices do international journalists – who are constantly on the move -have to make to do their jobs? How does this affect their family life, especially if they have very young children as it is the case of Christiane Amanpour?

    2) Is it possible for a journalist reporting objectively to express their personal views and take side with issues through books and other publications as they can’t do so on the air?

    3) Which type of journalism give a journalist more freedom to be engaged with international issue, the one broadcast on the air or the one published in written press and blogs?

    4) What frustrations do journalists face when reporting about controversial issues? How do they manage to make their reports (look) balanced when they can’t directly have the views of all sides?

    5) Do journalists of the stature of Christiane Amanpour and the rest of the guest you have today need a big team to make (breathtaking) documentaries? In 2007 she presented a six-hour series on the world’s three leading monotheistic religions and their defenders, ‘God’s Warriors’. How long did it take her to compile this report?

  56. 57 Will Rhodes
    June 2, 2008 at 16:25

    @ VictorK

    The position of women in the Muslim world is never reported on as a matter of fact by Western broadcasters, but as an injustice crying out to be remedied.

    Christiane Amanpour made a documentary series called “God’s Warriors” – I would look that up and watch it Victor. Excellent program.

  57. 58 Muhammad Asim Munir
    June 2, 2008 at 16:56

    Hi WHYS!

    I hope you all are fine.

    WHYS Q: So when should a reporter report and when should they give humanitarian help? Is it more important to get the story to millions of people around the world, or save the life of one person in need. Or can they do both?

    It is a fact that reporting itself is a humanitarian help but in an indirect way. If you analyze things then you must be aware of the fact that the biggest problem in providing help after some natural disaster is ‘lack of information’. No body knows where what level of help is needed until it is reported.

    The Holy Quran says that even the life of an individual is equal to the life of whole human being. So, saving a single life in a direct way and saving many lives in an indirect way are equal. However, it depends upon the typical situation where what option is the best.

    In this typical case, i think providing humanitarian help to some seriously injured person would have been the best option.

    If you have a question or a point to put to any of the people on today’s programme, you can email us or post on the blog.

    My question to Christiane Amanpur is:

    What do you focus upon during the coverage of some natural disaster or war etc.?

    With Regards,

    Muhammad Asim Munir
    Gujranwala, Pakistan.
    Choice 1: +92 321 645 6476 (Call/Text)
    Choice 2: +92 55 373 5821 (Call)

  58. June 2, 2008 at 17:05

    Perhaps the neatest solution to this one would be that journalists in zones of suffering should mandatorily be accompanied by helper personnel, such as medics and other emergency personnel.

    Who would foot the bill? Perhaps a foundation specially set up for this purpose.

    The question then becomes: would journalists object to being hampered in this way? And that would be a much tougher question to answer, I think.

  59. 60 Jessica-NY
    June 2, 2008 at 17:12


    Does anyone remember the 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph taken by Kevin Carter of Sudanese girl who collapsed on her way to a feeding center while a vulture waited nearby? St. Petersburg Times criticized him for not helping saying, “The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene.” In 1994 Mr. Carter committed suicide and in his note he wrote of being “haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses…of starving or wounded children…”

    My point is that all media personal have a responsibility to get their job done, but also a moral obligation to extend a helping hand. In this case, Mark did not have the ability to save all of the Chinese people to the hospital, but he could have helped one, just one. Michael Nicholson saved one, just one.

  60. 61 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    June 2, 2008 at 17:39

    Hello, dear WHYS tema, listeners and bloggers! 😛

    To Mr. Vause, thanks indeed for your sincerity and for sharing your experience with us. When we’re in the exact moment of the situation, it may be really difficult to take thaat kind of decision. However, there are some priorities in life.

    To be an excellent reporter, or to be a great human being? 😦
    I agree with Anthony, who says above that reporters do help people when they report. However, in that specific situation, he could have made a little difference in someone’s life by helping him/her. He would have lost the report of some info (that, anyway, was already covered by many other reporters), and saved someone’s life. Over all, we’re human beings that need to be there for others… Most of the times we do not receive any recognition for that, but at least we feel the satisfaction of changing one single life for good.

    Nevertheless, I pray God to bless all of you, the reporters who risk your own lives to help the others and present the information that we need to understand the world where we live. To Mr. Vause, I’ll also pray God for you so that you can find the relief you need now. There are still many good things you can do for this world, as you’re doing now! 🙂

    Hugs from Colombia! 😛

  61. June 2, 2008 at 17:45

    Hi WHYSers!

    I am happy to hear that this will be discussed today. I look forward to the discussion.

    My questions are to the panel. They are aimed at discussing the value of objectivity to news reporting under these especially challenging circumstances.

    1. How does the journalist make a distinction, if at all, between ‘becoming involved’ and remaining ‘objectively detached’ under many of these, admittedly, difficult situations?

    Following from this:

    2. Obviously, we are trained to believe there are ‘boundaries’ to be maintained between objective detachment and involvement in one’s story; in real terms, though, how does one maintain these distinction, if at all possible?

    3. How does progressive exposure to particular stimuli in certain contexts, like human suffering, oppressive Government regimes, etc. impact the constructions of the news narrative, as a result?

    4. To use the late Peter Jennings’ words: how different is reporting the news from the frontlines as compared to the homefront, and is there a middleground? How much training/ preparation, in other words, goes into assignments which require you to interact with news subject in these especially personal and challenging ways?

  62. June 2, 2008 at 17:55

    Oh, for what it is worth, I just wanted to say that I have long been a supporter (‘fan’ has a pejorative meaning, I think!) of Christiane Amanpour’s reports, over the years!

  63. 64 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    June 2, 2008 at 18:04

    Mr Vause was in a very difficult situation, in which many things can come into one’s mind… I think that reporters have a very humanistic job, that is to inform the community about the current topics and make the world aware of the facts. However, before being journalist, lawyer, doctor, etc., there are some moral principles that rule over any other circumstance: In this case, he should have helped at least one of the people there, one neighbour that could be safe today with his/her family. Today we could have at least a little difference in the number of victims and in a family’s life.

  64. 65 Devadas V, India
    June 2, 2008 at 18:06

    ethics – do majority of journalists now have this? as in iraq journalists embedded with american and its allied army reported what they gave exception being an english war journalist of repute.
    so the answer by the journalist to the victims of chinese quake doesnt surprise me at all. as sensationalism and views of the perpetrator rather than the news is the order of the day.

  65. 66 Munyoro, Kenya
    June 2, 2008 at 18:07

    I’d say that Reporters are not obliged 2 aid those in desperate situations but they have a responsibility towards humanity nonetheless. Sometimes they too find themselves feeling how desparate the situation is so its all down 2 personal decisions.

  66. 67 Rob B, Texas
    June 2, 2008 at 18:08

    If help is needed and can be given, it should be. I don’t see why a reporter cannot tell the story and help at the same time. Indeed, his personal involvement should give greater insight to the problem at hand and I would suggest that he will file a better report.

    A reporter does what he does to earn a living. That helps himself. A greater person will contribute to the situation in a humanitarian way and, in my opinion, is morally bound to help where he can. This is not to ignore the greater good of reporting a story that may inspire others to help when they otherwise would not.

  67. 68 Thea Winter - Indianapolis IN, USA
    June 2, 2008 at 18:08

    What a hard life for reporters. I feel that the news comes first. Help should be given if the reporter can after the report is completed. My question is if John Vause had enough supplies to help all the people needing help? People in need can become very violent if they feel one person can help them all. He could have become another victim. His personal safety has to be of some concern for this discussion.

    Thank you,

  68. 69 Vijay srao
    June 2, 2008 at 18:09

    Save it for the in house magazine or a journalism 101 course.
    American journalism is so academic,the New York Times has to be the dullest newspaper on Earth.
    Are trying to contrast CNN(dull,obnoxious,naval gazing and irrelevant) with the BBC World Service.
    One has to help,when One can.

  69. 70 Pieray A, Lagos, Nigeria
    June 2, 2008 at 18:10

    The definition of news is subjective and usually political. If news is defined, in this particular case, as a work of mercy or a humanitarian work, or it is defined in terms of the value of human life, or it is defined in terms of the story of the lost sheep, out of 100 sheep, told by Jesus Christ, taking the wounded and the people in the line of danger in the car constitute THE news that should be reported. Not the number of people who have died or the degree of havoc done by the earth quake.

  70. 71 Robert E
    June 2, 2008 at 18:11

    Personally I would want the reporters to help because they need more people to help. If there is some kind of declaration which prevents the person from helping them then I would frankly suspend that. This is because the reporter has obvisously been deeply affected by the situation in China. So I would want them to give them help. Personally I think that journalists have the ability to help in a totally different way then anyone else. I think that journalists should talk to them because the people who have become victims of this tragety will want and need to talk to someone so in away the journalist will be doing there jobs.

  71. 72 Scott Millar
    June 2, 2008 at 18:21

    + Reporters are on location with a job to do, otherwise they most likely would not be in a position to even provide the help. Reporters might have a moral responsibility to help people they come in direct contact with, if it is an immediate matter of life and death, such as providing CPR, etc. Even this would be very difficult to determine.

    + If reporters go off half-cocked attempting to help, they become faced with a whole new scope of issues and concerns. Providing help could endanger their own lives and as a consequence the lives of others who might have to rescue or locate the reporter. How do you play Sophie’s choice? There could be future consequences for reporters, if they collectively become known for playing the role of humanitarians; this could risk coverage and access in politically sensitive areas.

    + The reporter can potentially do greater good by covering the story, which could result in awareness that might put in motion large scale humanitarian efforts.

    – Portland, Oregon

  72. 73 Ayodeji O, U.S.A.
    June 2, 2008 at 18:26

    What a heartless thing to say from the guest speaker saying, the story is the most important thing. I hope one day he’d be trapped in a fire, and a journalist would just tape his incineration and report it rather than help him. That’s all I can say.


  73. 74 Jane
    June 2, 2008 at 18:29

    As for war zones, absolutely not. A journalist cannot risk being made a target by any of the participating sides (not that this will never happen.)
    However, the analogy of the self-immolating protester and the injured is facile.
    That protester is willing to do this to him/herself. The injured were in no way responsible for their own injuries.
    That said, if you can help, help. If you can’t, you can’t.
    Deciding where the line is is entirely up to you.
    I wish you wisdom in making that decision.

    Mr.Vause, thank you for being shockingly candid. I hope that this dilemma is the last such one you’re confronted with.

  74. 75 Serina Tang
    June 2, 2008 at 18:30

    What a contemptable, loathsome and morally bankrupt person your guest Mike Nicholson is. To simply stand behind that phrase, “I am a journalist… this is my job the rest is not my concern”, is just sickening to my mind. Report what you find, but to stand by and let horrible things happen because you consider yourself to somehow separate from the world and its events.

    I suspect he would have happily stood by and watched camp inmates being herded off into the gas chambers in Nazi Germany, because he was just there to REPORT it all! I hope he is not around me should I find myself on fire one day through an accident. I can see he would not bother to put me out.

    Serina Tang


  75. 76 Andrew
    June 2, 2008 at 18:31

    The nature of reporting/journalism is that at some point they will encounter a situation that is more than the local flower show or a warehouse on fire to view from a safe distance. On the one hand they are there to report on an event, nothing life threatening, but the other event can be serious. If fire crews are in attendance, then it is not expected that would intervene. But what if they were first on scene with no other help available and people were trapped? Would they let them burn to death or assist? They are in a situation where they are able to assist and save those lives, then surely, morally, they would be obliged to help. Unless of course they were risking their own safety then the argument can be made that it was not in their best interest to intervene. That is understandable.

    During a humanitarian crisis, yes that journalist does have a job to attend to, but when lives are at risk would that not override any employment obligations. To report the event is important in itself, but not the entire extent to their presence their. There are locals caught up in the event, they would not consider as they see their freinds and relatives or colleagues drowning, trapped, etc that they would stand back and consider it is not their job to help. Some will, but most would not. They would do what they could in that case. The same should be said of journalists. If they were in a famine situation, they cannot feed every starving person, different case altogether. But where an earthquake has levelled a town, where required, should not any reasonably minded person assist where and when necessary to save a life? It comes to a point where you have to consider that your presence there can be used to help others who may be injured and require assistance, then any journalist, photographer, etc muct make themselves available and not hide behind an excuse of being a reporter and somehow removed from the situation, there only as an observer. This justification cannot be made as if they were a scientist peering into a petri dish.

    If that is the mindset, then such an individual should not involve themselves in that work, where they will come across such events and situations. If they are in a position to help and able to do so then morally they are obliged to help. If there are others on scene to intervene, and the journalist is surplus to requirement, then they can feel at ease in their minds if they continue on with their job. But that is not always the case.



  76. 77 Venessa
    June 2, 2008 at 18:34

    I just want to restate that we are judging these people from the comforts of our homes. It’s ironic that everyone is so hypercritical but wait anxiously for the news these journalists are reporting.

    If there are hundreds of people looking for rides and medical care how do you decide who is more important? I suspect that if he had helped just one person others might criticize his decision about who he chose to help and why he didn’t do more.

  77. 78 Norbert Hirschhorn MD
    June 2, 2008 at 18:34

    The essential detail was that the hospital was six hours away, back to where they had just come. Suppose they then returned to the spot where they found the wounded, and found even more wounded. The right choice was to do what was possible, and then to get on with the job of telling the story.

  78. 79 portlandmike
    June 2, 2008 at 18:35

    No one remembers the movie called “Medium cool?” “When should filming a gruesome scene end and human responsibility to try to save a life begin?”

  79. 80 Benjamin
    June 2, 2008 at 18:42

    I think that we have to remember that a journalist’s profession acts as a sort aid amplifier. Sure the aid isn’t necessarily immediate, however, the story does bring attention to the problem, and by focusing the world’s eye upon the issue, it brings in the people who actually are trained to offer aid to those in need.

    Portland, OR. USA

  80. 81 Stefan S, Prague
    June 2, 2008 at 18:42

    In response to the people sending messages that journalists must help at all costs? What happens when a reporter gives his two day ration of food to share among a hundred people? Does he choose one or two to help and get beaten to death by an angry mob? Twenty people trying to cram into his car and the disappointed slashing his tires? Such unrealistic idealistic blah-blah.

  81. 82 Jerry Goldin
    June 2, 2008 at 18:42

    I believe that just standing by and not helping is know to the legal profession as “Depraved Indifference” and is actually a criminal offense. While the general question may have lots of gray areas, I don’t see any in this particular instance. Hiding behind your profession as an excuse to do nothing is a cop-out.

  82. 83 Richard - Portland, Oregon, USA
    June 2, 2008 at 18:42

    Your commentators seem to make the assumption that their reporting is more important than saving a life. Do they really think that they are separate from the rest of humanity because of what they do? The human obligation regardless of professional responsibility is to respond to the cry for help. Their action is no less reprehensible than the motorist that does not respond to the accident by the side of the road.
    Saying that it is not my job, doesn’t absolve one of responsibility.

  83. 84 Lauren in Portland
    June 2, 2008 at 18:42

    I find it alarming that a reporter is forced to forego the simple ethics of humanity in order to get a story. To watch people suffer without taking action is disheartening. This world needs all the help and humanity it can get.

  84. 85 Don
    June 2, 2008 at 18:43

    Why is it even a question? As humans we are obligated to help others. Certainly it helps when you get your story out to the world, but the bottom line is we are human first and a professional after. Is it ok for a Banker not to help because he only deals with numbers.

  85. 86 kalypso -vienna,austria
    June 2, 2008 at 18:44

    all humans have a moral responsibility to help if they can. so why not reporters?
    when they are in a region where people are suffering, dying, of course, reporters must help, just like anyone else!

  86. 87 Wyatt - Oregon, United States
    June 2, 2008 at 18:45

    As I understand it, journalists are given access to dangerous stories in places like Iraq and the Sudan based on their neutrality. Governments who are opposed to the United States may allow journalists in trusting that they will not interfere and leave their journalist persona. To break this persona may not just ruin a story, but may also put the lives of journalists in danger.

  87. 88 Tom M
    June 2, 2008 at 18:47

    We are ALL in the position of the journalist these days. We all know what is going on and there are many ways we can contribute to practical solutions in the world on a daily basis. The self righteousness of people telling journalists how to do their job is hypocritical. They just happen to be nearer to the action. In reality we’re ALL letting those people die.

  88. 89 Richard
    June 2, 2008 at 18:47

    Your commentators seem to make the assumption that their reporting is more important than saving a life. Do they really think that they are separate from the rest of humanity because of what they do? The human obligation regardless of professional responsibility is to respond to the cry for help. Their action is no less reprehensible than the motorist that does not respond to the accident by the side of the road. Saying that it is not my job, doesn’t absolve one of responsibility.

    Portland, Oregon, USA

  89. 90 Lee - Auckland
    June 2, 2008 at 18:48

    Am I hearing this right? Did I just ehar Jeremy Bowen say.. oh I shouldn’t have helped.. let them starve.. thats the natural order of things. Nothing to do with me. Theyre not wildebeest crossing the Mara River running into the jaws of waiting crocodiles.

    Jeremy it is something to do with you.. YOU ARE THERE. You are part of it. This isn’t some sci-fi show where you follow some prime directive of non-intervention.

    I cannot believe these people, what they are saying. I have the feeling that these guests of yours would probably have left the Fritzl children in their dungeon because thats their problem… the natural order of things for them to be locked up and abused and just filed a story – maybe come back the next day for another update.

  90. 91 Olivene M. T., Kingston, Jamaica
    June 2, 2008 at 18:48

    It is convenient for the journalists on your panel to counsel that the journalist has no obligation beyond reporting the story. I am sure that the people who are the subjects of his piece feel otherwise. For a journalist to ignore the suffering of the people around him or her for the sake of doing the story is to make that journalist guilty of exploiting the people around at a time when they are most vulnerable.

  91. 92 Mark V S
    June 2, 2008 at 18:48

    Maybe a journalist should keep in mind that reporting the in-the-moment situation of helping someone in need would make an excellent human interest story. It also could provide a perspective on the situation different from the usual, rather cold and detached journalistic method.

  92. 93 Scott Millar
    June 2, 2008 at 18:50

    + We are all standing by watching horrible things happen. Is distance the only factor in responsibility? The further away the less moral responsibility? Is it fine to watch horrible events from the safety of your home and do nothing? This is not as simple as people propose!

    – Portland, Oregon

  93. 94 Zak
    June 2, 2008 at 18:58

    Exactly what Vause just said; his editors would have been happy if he had taken the story to hospital!

    What more can be said, I said this before, even if it was beyond his editors. He just made a poor decision and he’ll never get the greater story that could have been.

  94. 95 Will Rhodes
    June 2, 2008 at 19:05

    I still stick with what I said much earlier – he has a job to do and doing that job can save a great many lives.

    China responded much quicker than they normally would because the world is watching them – Tibet and the Olympics all in the same sentence! They moved far quicker and many more lives were saved because reporters did their job in the first place.

    You can use this in the situation in Burma – the government there didn’t move so quickly – will they next time? I think they will because they are in the news, up front and personal!

    After the reporter has done his job then they can help – but the report must come first.

  95. 96 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    June 2, 2008 at 19:06

    Hi again! It’s Sandra Patricia, from Colombia 😛

    Well, some people state what you said, Zak: saving one person would’ve been a great story. But a very different reason should have lead him to do it. In fact, it would not have been necessary to gain any kinf of recognition for that! You do it just because you’re a good human being, and that’s all!

    Tnaks for this wonderful program, Chloe, and thanks to the guests for sharing your point of view. To each one of you, congratulations for your great job! May God bless you and give you wisedom to keep on doing it right! 🙂

  96. 97 Neda
    June 2, 2008 at 19:07

    Reporters are only human, not superhuman, and they will make mistakes. It’s easy to second guess actions after the fact, but he made the wrong decision which he will have to learn from it.

    A reporter must always carry his/her ethics closely by, otherwise it defeats their purpose. The reason for reporting is to bring awareness and hopefully a solution, and ergo a reporter must do the same personally whenever possible.

    Reporting may save 100 people, but helping a single person is equally important. It’s a tightrope of ethics and sometimes reporters will fall, but at least they are doing something to help; even if they are doing so imperfectly.

  97. 98 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    June 2, 2008 at 19:11

    Hi, Will! 😛

    It’s obvious that China’s response should have helped these people in time, even if it was just for keeping their popularity safe. However, if you are there and it’s possible for you to do something for these people, even if it’s not your job, would you do it? At least helping one person would make a great difference!

    Reporters, there are many, but one helping hand in a moment of hurry would be a blessing for any of them!

    Cheers! 🙂

  98. 99 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    June 2, 2008 at 19:20

    Hi! 🙂

    I couldn’t agree more with Neda. What I say: You can do great things just changing (and even saving) one single life. Unfortunately, Mr. Vause had to face that huge dilemma, but for sure he’ll do other great things and, for sure, he’ll learn a meaningful lesson from his experience. Still, with his job, he can do many good things for people, as he’s doing now sharing his experience and starting the discussion about this issue. Thanks, WHYS, for allowing people to discuss this! 🙂

  99. 100 Zak
    June 2, 2008 at 19:25

    So what do you suggest the next footage should have been Will, given that what he got in the fading light moving on the rest of that day hit the editing room floor at CNN? He could’ve justified the story within the bounds of what he had but the corporate need was driving him. There would have been lights at the hospital, he could have shot at night easily. I just think his instinct was wrong and he admitted it anyway. That destroys the story – people wouldn’t want to see him drive away there just look at his video and see for yourself – it’s sad.

    Hi Sandra, I just went on about this earlier on the blog so my point now is more emphatic – it wouldn’t have mattered what his motivation was only his actions to better the Humanitarian situation and gain that story. That’s instinct that can’t be taught.

    Alan Johnston was warned by his editors not to stay in the Gaza Strip but he did this at his own risk, it was his bravery that ultimately saved his life. But look at the magnitude of his story, albeit a once in a lifetime decision, his story permeated his capture. He had the greater instinct that lesser reporters will never have. I’m not at all advocating that any reporter repeat the specific actions of Mr. Johnston. But I do believe that it was the magnitude of his story that ultimately freed him. The magnitude of the story will either transcend a disaster and better it or it will tail and have the opposite effect.

  100. 101 Scott M, Portland, OR, U.S.A.
    June 2, 2008 at 19:26

    We are all standing by watching horrible things happen. Is distance the only factor in responsibility? The further away the less moral responsibility? Is it fine to watch horrible events from the safety of your home and do nothing? This is not as simple as people propose!

  101. 102 Lauren
    June 2, 2008 at 19:28

    To all those who criticise journalists who don’t help victims of disasters, etc – why don’t you get off your butts and go to these areas and help the victims? Oh so it’s not your job, well it’s not theirs either. Their job is to report the situation, that is how they help

  102. 103 Craig M, OR, U.S.A.
    June 2, 2008 at 19:29

    Journalists are the eyes and ears for the rest of the world. They often take enormous risks and endure major discomforts to do their work. It is the responsibility of the rest of us to decide how we will respond to the scenes that they report. If a journalist allows his impulse to rescue someone to stop his reporting function, the story will not get out, and he will be unable to enlist the aid of more organized efforts on a larger scale.

  103. 104 Will Rhodes
    June 2, 2008 at 19:54

    Sandra – No, reporters are reporters and should help when and if they can – but they are not aid workers, Ambulance men or anything else – their job is to report to us what is happening.

    If the government doesn’t act it is the governments fault!

    Zak – I have said and will repeat it again – if he could have helped after doing his report then fine – help. But his job was to get the footage that his company wanted him to get at that point. Some of the greatest reporters go that extra inch/mile to get that footage – and we have seen how that can change the view of the world.

    We are a sound-bite ultra-quick world these days, and that has to be taken into account.

    Newspapers brought the news from the front-line in WWI with news clips playing in cinema – in WWII is was slightly different – Vietnam faster still. What we are now asking of the reporter is to be all things to all men – they cannot do that.

  104. June 2, 2008 at 19:57

    In the end, I suppose, it’s up to the person inside the journalist persona. Let’s face it, we all pass up opportunities for coming to the aid of suffering others by means of one excuse or another.

    usually it’s the same excuse too: too busy doing my job.

    I think we should be very careful about raging against heartless reporters, especially we who love to keep close to the news. I actually don’t believe in the ostensible heartlessness of the reporter who says ostensibly callously, ‘My job is to get the story etc.’ I’m more inclined to read that sort of statement as a means of coping with what must be one hell of a stressful and agonizing job.

    And, reporting is, after all, part of the process of highlighting and eliminating suffering. Still, it’s always up to the real person inside, in the end, as to whether you can stand the moral pressure of just looking on without acting to help, and as to what rationalizations you summon to justify your inaction.

  105. June 4, 2008 at 17:34

    Hi My Name is Eric Jones From Sierra Leone
    From 56 Wellington Street Freetown Sierra Leone.
    I am very happy when I hard in the news that Barrack Obama is the Presidential
    Nominee at last he one Bravo. I hope that GOD will use you to Make Peace around the Wold .

  106. November 8, 2009 at 14:21

    Very interesting!!! Thanks for the read.

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