Media Blog

It’s Not “Growing a Spine”; It’s Just Reporting

Moe Tkacik from Philadelphia Magazine gets closer to what’s actually happening:

Now, you’re right when you say the whole media re-grows a spine story is, as a supposed trend, kind of lame. I hadn’t seen such touching work from Anderson Cooper since I watched him get shelled in Bosnia on Channel One during high school, but I wouldn’t call it “growing a spine”; I’d call it reporting. And reporters, embittered know-it-alls that we tend to be, don’t as a general rule suffer fools very spinelessly. I’d say the most important thing was that reporters were growing *hearts*, they were discovering their empathy. Certainly the victims of this disaster had less in common with the average loft-dwelling cable news anchor than those affected by 9/11. And certainly, the average cable news anchor has not gotten to that point without having covered his fair share of murders, serial rapes, kidnappings, sniper attacks, hold-ups, infanticides, drive-bys, hit-and-runs and natural disasters; without having developed a fair amount of detachment from everyday tragedy — not to mention a healthy sense of the absurd. So I would say the media story in this — and you can’t watch that Shep clip without feeling like there’s a *story* in there — is that the scale and the depth and the protractedness of this tragedy was such that it inspired even the most glib, the most ephemera-happy, the most detached and the most ideally administration-friendly reporter covering it to feel a deep and abiding sense of duty to make his viewers understand how bad it can and could be, in someone else’s waterlogged shoes. There was a guy, a guy whose purpose in life prior to this incident seemed to manifest itself in the basis point fluctuations of audience share, who had suddenly made it his job to make his viewers understand the plight of their fellow men. It was pretty moving.

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