Thursday, January 06, 2005

"Around the Watercooler," Indeed

It took me about a day to realize what a poor choice of story - or reportage - was Wednesday's "Around the Watercooler" on Good Morning America, ABC's morning news program.

Diane Sawyer, in southeast Asia providing coverage on the tsunami that apparently ABC News didn't trust with its lower-tier reporters, did a story on journalists' living quarters. Half-paying attention while I made sure my son was eating his breakfast instead of flinging it, I heard her complain about two things in particular: one, sleeping on the floor, with "only" some mats and sleeping bags for warmth and cushioning. Two, the cramped workspaces they had to use to file reports.

By then I was in the living room watching in disbelief, and still it didn't end. She then turned to reporter Nick Watt, looking at the ground instead of the camera and seemingly not very interested in being there, to ask him what he felt had been the most difficult aspect of covering the catastrophe.

His answer: Being there to work - to observe the victims and their suffering - instead of to help them.

Bravo, Nick.

And then Diane replied, addressing her audience: "Well, at least you got to see how we were living over here."

Amazing. Apparently her coverage of these victims, who have just experienced the worst possible disaster in their lives, was enough for her to feel deserving of the ability to whine a bit about sleeping on a floor.

And what does this have to do with a blog about balancing motherhood with freelancing? Everything, I think. After all, a journalist is a journalist, regardless of whether the medium is print or broadcast. I used to think the question, "How does it feel?" screeched into a victim's face was the lowest point a reporter could reach. Now I know better. As a mother, I was struck by this comment in Liz Schwarzer's normally humorous blog: "As long as our children eat and theirs don't, [helping] is our job." Sounds like a lesson Diane needs to remember, lest she forget sleeping on the floor is a luxury many of her interviewees no longer have.


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