By Michelle Martin
Published January 18, 2010
Fr. James Martin (no relation), occasional guest on the Colbert Report, has made some observations about privacy and news coverage in the middle of natural disaster and human tragedy.
I follow his posts on the America Magazine blog In All Things, and find him insightful and interesting.
On January 15 he wrote about CNN coverage of the earthquake in Haiti. Below is a quote from that post, in which he describes the rescue of a small child:
Anderson Cooper stands atop the wreckage covering the story, as her family and friends claw at the concrete in a desperate attempt to free her. Go to the mark of 1:10 to see Cooper stick a microphone under the rubble and catch her terrified screams and choked sobs. Did they ask her if they could film the most terrifying moment of her life? And if they did, was it right even to ask? How is human dignity best respected? By filming or by not filming?
Fr. Martin correctly questions if a journalist can obtain legitimate consent from people who are in shock and hurting. I differ with him on one point, though. I wonder how respectful it is to embed the very clip he writes about, if there is a question about respect for the dignity of the little one in peril; or to hyperlink the other clips filmed by CNN, like the medical treatment of a 15 day old baby in front of his distraught father, or a grieving family burying a young woman.
I don't plan to watch any of the clips he links to, and I'm not linking to his actual blog entry. He makes the point that a CNN reporter could have described these things and not filmed them, maintaining anonymity and privacy for the victim.
I think Fr. Martin could have written about this without posting links to the videos. I know the clips are easily found by anyone who wants to see them, but why whisper more into the online echo chamber? When do we say, "Enough - I won't add to the problem."
What do you think?