An article on the class website of the Journalism Program at the University of Miami makes what, at first blush, seems like an obvious point: Journalists who cover traumatic events–fires, accidents, plane crashes, etc.–must always exhibit compassion and sympathy in the course of doing their work. Rather than trying to “stay impartial,” the writer says, “it is almost more important (for the journalist) to show a human side in these situations in order to try and relate to a reader or viewer.” But hold on, isn’t this an invitation to fake or strategic emotionalism? Isn’t it the job of the reporter to relate the victims of the event to the reader or the viewer, rather than to himself/herself? Shouldn’t we try to stay as far outside the trauma of the event as possible, so we can do our work properly? Isn’t it possible that the reporter’s exhibition of obvious compassion can actually alter the dynamics of a trauma-making event?

An article on the class website of the Journalism Program at the University of Miami makes what, at first blush, seems like an obvious point: Journalists who cover traumatic events–fires, accidents, plane crashes, etc.–must always exhibit compassion and sympathy in the course of doing their work. Rather than trying to “stay impartial,” the writer says, “it is almost more important (for the journalist) to show a human side in these situations in order to try and relate to a reader or viewer.” But hold on, isn’t this an invitation to fake or strategic emotionalism? Isn’t it the job of the reporter to relate the victims of the event to the reader or the viewer, rather than to himself/herself? Shouldn’t we try to stay as far outside the trauma of the event as possible, so we can do our work properly? Isn’t it possible that the reporter’s exhibition of obvious compassion can actually alter the dynamics of a trauma-making event?

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