This post by Steve Coll at newyorker.com gets at some crucial aspects of the journalist’s role as witness during and after natural disasters. http://bit.ly/66zAWo
Here are two excerpts:
Journalism is not a particularly esteemed profession, but is capacity to bear witness remains one of its more redeeming attributes. At moments like this in Haiti, a journalist’s function as a witness can be relatively uncomplicated, in comparison to, say, the processes of political or investigative reporting. In the field during a natural disaster of this scale, you do feel at times ghoulish and intrusive upon both the grief of survivors and in relation to the more directly useful efforts of rescuers and humanitarian relief worker. And yet all of those classes of participants in the crisis will recognize, most of the time, that journalism helpfully amplifies their own condition or potential.
After an account of his own experience covering the earthquake in northwest Iran in June, 1990, Coll concludes:
For now, however, I tune in and read about Haiti with an appetite for small, humanizing detail that gradually accumulates in a crisis of this magnitude, ensuring that it will not be neglected – or, later, forgotten. Already there is much outstanding journalism on the airwaves and in print – notwithstanding, in these times, the considerable expense. Technology, increasingly, makes us all witnesses to Crises. And yet, only those journalists intrepid enough to find their way forward, independently, can focus our lenses.