The woman’s face was contorted with anger as she thrust a finger at the media scrum covering a campaign event and yelled, “I hate you all! Liars! You should be in prison!”
Memory fades. I can’t recall which presidential candidate this woman had turned out to support last year but I will never forget her look of sheer contempt for the traveling press corp. I remember because I used to be one of them.
These days, it’s easy to distrust or dislike the media, I suppose. But let’s put politics aside (please!) and take a moment to realize the worth of working journalists.
As you read this you probably know the latest about the path of Hurricane Irma and its massively destructive effect on parts of the Caribbean and the US. Thank reporters (and meteorologists) for spreading the word about Irma’s approach. That news sparked evacuations and, surely, helped save lives.
Before Irma it was Hurricane Harvey and the immense destruction it inflicted on South Texas and Louisiana. Americans were transfixed as they sought to learn how much damage occurred or how they could help. By opening a newspaper, turning on television or radio or by hopping on the internet they could instantly become informed of the biblical wreckage Harvey had caused.
Thank the media for getting you that information.
Houston area reporters who’s own homes were flooded or completely washed away somehow made it into their newsrooms (if their workplace was still habitable) and painstakingly gathered information to present to the public. Or they worked from home, wading out into their shattered neighborhoods, trudging through toxic waist-deep water not knowing if downed electrical lines might be in play. They were compelled by events to do their job. To understand the event, gather facts, interview victims and officials to better tell the rest of us about the human side of this historic storm.
Even though the KHOU-TV newsroom had been evacuated local reporter Brandi Smith and her cameraman Mario Sandoval found a way to carry on. In a solo broadcast that kept the public informed Smith was broadcasting live when she spotted an 18-wheeler become trapped on a lethal stretch of highway below. The audience was spellbound as this reporter chased down a passing Harris County Sheriff’s vehicle and directed them to the truck that was quickly disappearing under the rising floodwaters. The driver was rescued thanks to the quick thinking of that reporter.
It would not be the only time this scenario played out.
A few days later, CNN correspondent Drew Griffin was waiting to go live on-the-air from Beaumont, Texas when a pickup truck accidentally drove into a flooded ravine behind him. Without hesitation Griffin, his producer and photographer jumped into action to assist the driver as their camera continued to roll.
“Have you got a power cord…or a rope,” Griffin shouted to his team. And as the truck started to be swept away in the current they struggled to bring the driver to dry land. Griffin immediately went back to work describing to the anchorman in New York what he’d seen, underscoring for citizens why driving in floods can be so potentially deadly.
Griffin was soon joined on camera by driver Jerry Sumrall who, after he caught his breath, came to shake Griffin’s hand.
“Hey, I wanna thank these guys for saving my life,” Sumrall said. “Thank you.” His truck could be seen in the far distance being carried away by floodwaters.
When you hear about the thousands of volunteers from all over the nation who rush into devastated areas to help, as you watch the live rescues of fellow human beings trapped in deadly circumstances or when you read about the tiny Texas girl who clung to her dead mother in the floodwaters for hours and survived – remember, it was the media that kept you informed.
These stories of courage, determination and survival — lovingly delivered to you by dedicated reporters and photographers — help bring America together in a shared sense of fellowship. Information disseminated by reporters can help the homeless, force action by lackadaisical or unfocused officials and, if only for a brief moment, bring the citizenry together in this fractured era in which we live.
For all the bias you may perceive in political coverage realize there are countless other journalists who have dedicated their lives to work for you. They truly believe you have a “right to know” and they work tirelessly to keep you up to date. And, aside from high-priced network TV correspondents, reporters usually work incredibly long hours for not much money. The do it for the love of the profession and their belief that you need them.
Some journalists bravely go to warzones to bring you the news. Others stay closer to home believing there is nothing more important than telling their fellow citizens and neighbors what is happening in their community.
Thank them for what they do. They deserve it.
Note: Deadline for this column was after Hurricane Harvey and before Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean.