Monday, August 29, 2005

Brave Journaist or Idiot?

"Yonder sits the Fourth Estate; more important than all the others," said Sir Edmund Burke, capturing and edifying most of the normative assumptions we make about the profession of journalism. A recent headline declared that more journalists have died in Iraq than Vietnam. Surely Democracy owes a debt of gratitude to those -- such as Indiana's Ernie Pyle -- who braved the front lines to bring us the news we could not witness first-hand.

Being on the front lines of a war is noble, but being on the front lines of a hurricane is moronic. Every time a hurricane slams into the southern U.S., some idiot with a rain jacket and a microphone dashes out in front of the more than 100-mile-an-hour winds in the name of journalism. Nonsense! This is simply a assinine practice. As we watched Fox News this morning, we watched their man-on-the-scene chronicle the events (it was very windy and rainy) as the anchor told him that he need not "take one for the team." All the while, the reporter leaned at a 60 degree angle to avoid being blown over, looking like an out-of-place Olympic ski jumper .

All of this is misguided bravado with some reporter trying to evidence their mettle. Instead we stayed tuned only for the possibility of this Pulitzer Poser getting halved by a flying former mobile home wall. A piece of roof landed about three feet from Fearless Fox at 135 mph, thus finally sending him off camera. While not rooting for Mr. Hard News' demise, we were glued to the TV like a train wreck. And, mind you, all of this bravado was to show the wind and rain. Breaking news from Mississippi: Hurricane Brings Driving Wind and Rain.

In the ratings game, Fox may have scored a victory. In the common sense game, a likely underpaid journalist risked his life for next-to-nothing. Not one of the prouder days for my former profession. People will die, and others will lose everything in this storm. Those people are victims. The rescue professionals trying to save them are heros, and the volunteers that will help rebuild Mississippi and Louisana are noble. But the reporter hanging onto a pole is an idiot, plain and simple.



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