So called journalists…

** Warning **  Loud bleating to follow.  Read at your own risk.  Cute child oriented post will follow shortly as an antidote to this post.

So unless you have been living without electricity or newspapers for a week or so, you will likely be fully aware that our beautiful country has suffered an horrific natural catastrophe.  The lovely city of Christchurch has been devastated and we have not been so fortunate this time around with casualties and loss of life.

Naturally journalists flock to such events, as it is their work to keep us all informed of major events wherever they may happen.  Those of us not directly effected naturally watch or read the news in order to understand what is going on, and how, if at all, we can help.

So far, so good.  All normal things.

Sadly, however, I think some media people seem to be employing morons and / or insensitive sensationalists in their teams.  If we aren’t watching repeated scenes of the open grief of family who are waiting to get news of the buildings their loved ones were last known to be in, we are getting repetitive questioning regarding the victim identification process.   From the very get-go there has been something of a dog-with-a-bone attitude to the “numbers” of dead (as though those numbers were merely statistics to recount in detail to the reading/watching public), and to getting the names of victims for publication in whatever media format the questioner happens to work.

Is it just me?  Or are these people missing the fact that they are asking for the personal details of people who have family, friends, colleagues all grieving and mourning?
I’ve watched many, many bulletins and have cried over nearly every one.  I don’t need to know the names and ages of each individual victim.  I grieve for each of them, even if they are unknown to me.
Where is the compassion for the families who may want to deal with this in their own private way?  For some journalists it seems like they have lost their empathy and humanity in the rush to get a human story.

By all means, if a family wishes to deal with their grief by celebrating the life lost in a public way using a public forum like television or newspaper, that is certainly their right.  And they will not find a lack of willing assistants to this end within the media.  But it should be the family’s choice, not a matter of right for the journalists.

And now to my primary bleat…

Like the lack of compassion with the almost desperate badgering to get names from the police, there seems to be a bit of a beat-up going on around the victim identification process.  If I have heard it once, I have heard it a hundred times… the process is slow because it needs to be accurate.  A family deserves to have only one event to grieve over – not a second should a mistake be made through rushing this process.  I’m sure that the need to know and have their loved one back with them is intense for many families, and while I have every sympathy with any frustration they may be feeling at the process, I have no sympathy whatsoever for the prodding, poking and repeated questioning over this topic by at least one journalist every time I see a news bulletin.

My personal view is that one or more members of the press corp are genuinely stupid or genuinely ignorant of other people’s suffering.  Repeatedly the “visual” identification question keeps coming up.  I think the police have done a magnificent job of trying to deal with this in a dignified, non-distressing way.  Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy is the fall back answer.
I thought that to be a journalist you had to be fairly observant, curious and have a bit of imagination in order to question what you are seeing.  Clearly some of these so called journalists are none of the above.  The large chunks of hundred year old masonry lying all over the streets, huge slabs of precast concrete flooring and pillars in collapsed modern buildings should all be very big hints.  So should the condition of considerably sturdier man-made items – viz buses and cars – on to which some of these things have fallen.   If you are stupid enough not to make the connection and why the police are saying that non-visual means is the most accurate method of identification, then you shouldn’t be a journalist.

Family and friends of victims do not need you to be going on about this.  If they’ve made the connection – and what reasonable person wouldn’t have – every time you go on about it and the process as a whole you are just poking that very raw nerve and being completely insensitive for the sake of something to ask at a press conference.   For God’s sake use what little intelligence you might have and temper your need for information with compassion for those people’s suffering.

Oh, and as a final bleat – Facebook is NOT a source for your publication and trawling up of information on victims, survivors and their families.  Do not pick on those who are trying their best to keep family and friends informed, but do not intend for you to take their well-meaning updates to share with the rest of us.  Be decent and treat the families better.

Here endeth my Bleat.



6 thoughts on “So called journalists…

  1. Very well put, I may be trying to be very naive at the moment but was assuming that part of the reason that we have so few names so far is not because that’s how many they have properly identified but the number that the families have approved publication of their names. I must say though that not getting the power on until Saturday was a blessing because we didn’t just sit in front of the tv watching the carnage, instead we listened to the information we actually needed on the radio


  2. Hiya Laugan,
    First off, let me say how glad I was to hear that you were all right. And all of the other CM mums in Christchurch too. A great relief.

    As for the number of names – it is quite possible that there are more identified people and family have asked for some time. But from a few things I’ve seen and heard, some of the media would have no qualms in looking for ways to bypass that sort of request anyway.

    I just needed to get this off my chest, it’s been bugging me for a few days now. Tactless & thoughtless behaviour gets right up my nose at the best of times, never mind times like this when kindness and consideration should be paramount.

    Anyway, take care & please let me know if there’s anything we can do.


  3. Hi… anger is a stage of grief… so well expressed!! Its all still unreal here – and we are on the ‘lucky side’ of town without serious damage… and for our family, no loved ones missing. It’s a bit of a mix between stunned bewilderment of the whole thing & at the same time just wanting to talk about it – trying to make sense of it.


    1. Hi Rach,
      Welcome to Oh Waily and thank you for your comment.
      I don’t really have any words for what you must all have gone through and continue to go through even on the “lucky” side of town. I just hope that you are supported as much as you need and are able to deal with it in whatever way helps you the most. You certainly have all our very best thoughts and wishes.


  4. I don’t think it’s a bleat, it’s a more than fair observation, and one of the reasons I only lasted six months as a reporter – every time I turned up at a tragedy and had to try and beat information out of a grieving family member, I felt my soul turn black.

    Hope that your loved ones are okay.


    1. Hi Charlotte,
      I can understand why you wouldn’t want to be a journalist. The focus on getting the “human” story seems to miss out on the humanity of the person being exposed for public consumption. If they are willing participants as part of their process of healing, I don’t see an issue, but in the immediate aftermath of any serious event – how much judgement is clear and how much permission is reasonably given?

      Anyway, we have been lucky – our friends and family are all safe. But I am a bit spooked by the 4.5 earthquake that we could feel in Wellington last night. Apparently it was 20k NW of us and 40k deep. Nevertheless it is a very spooky feeling in light of Christchurch and only the second one I have felt. The first being the big one last September that caused damage but no loss of life.


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