Journalists put themselves in danger to cover the stories that are important, from the local level to internationally. Some die and are injured in the line of duty, particularly in covering wars and in working in places where governments persecute the media.
While it’s safe to say reporters do not expect to die or be injured, they must accept that they are often on the front lines, where there is danger. But there are times when “getting the story” goes too far – and facing danger is more a matter of entertainment than journalism.
Such is the case with Hurricane Irma. Covering the big storm as it approached the United States was important, primarily in warning people of what was to come and how to prepare, and in gauging what preparations were being made. After the storm, the stories abounded, with journalists playing a key role in communicating the level of the disaster.
During the storm is a different story.
While photos and video of the hurricane via unmanned cameras is one thing, putting journalists and technicians out in the storm to broadcast live from locations as the storm is hitting is risking lives for no good reason.
David Bauder, television writer for The Associated Press, states: “When a huge tree limb crashed to the ground behind NBC's Gabe Gutierrez, forcing him to scurry away during a live shot, it illustrated the danger many journalists faced. Network executives were one flying projectile away from a tragedy that would have them facing hard questions about whether they were placing a quest for exciting TV and ratings above common sense and public safety.”
It seems that just about every broadcast network and TV channel now follow the lead of the most famous modern-day storm chaser – Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel – in having reports as the winds are howling, the rain is blowing in sheets and danger abounds. If the trend continues, it indeed is only a matter of time before someone is killed or seriously hurt from blowing debris or some other of the numerous dangers.
In the process, these reporters are not also giving an inaccurate picture of how bad the storm is as they cannot possibly be in the worst of locations broadcasting live. They are in places where safety is at least partially considered, leading to the inevitable viewer assessment that the storm is not as bad as forecast.
The irony is the reporters are doing exactly what they are advising and urging people not to do by staying in harm’s way. It’s time for common sense and good judgment to limit this reporting practice.