A long time ago I read somewhere that journalist should never become part of a news story. It was supposed to be an unwritten rule that a journalist checks his or her humanity at the door when he or she picks up a microphone or a camera to shove into somebody else’s face. I often think about this when I see news stories about black ice at night. A local camera crew will setup their gear on a particularly hazardous road under particularly nasty weather conditions and just record all the cars about to crash. They could step from behind the camera and warn people. But that wouldn’t be good for ratings. It’s so much better journalism, and voyeurism, when we see car crashes happen before our very eyes.
I am particularly disappointed when I see journalist try to act like they have absolutely no connection to a particular story. I hate it when a black journalist acts like they have no clue why the black community may feel collective outrage when a high profile media personality lets loose a racial epithet against black people. How many times have I heard something akin to CNN personality Tony Harris asking a black person something stupid like, why do black people care that Michael Richards uses the n-word when black people interrupt his comedy act? Why won’t Tony Harris tell people how he feels about blatant racism being committed? Then again, the way this CNN anchor jigs for the camera, he probably really has no clue how black people feel.
Back during the race for the White House between Arizona Senator John McCain and Illinois Senator Barack Obama, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin burst onto the scene with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer hitting a watermelon. She was a very polarizing figure. People who loved her could see her do no wrong. People who didn’t care for her saw her every gaffe and likened her political interviews to nails on a chalkboard. It was aggravating to see the media giving Ms. Palin the same attention that was being devoted to Mr. Obama as if they were equals. Regardless of their personalities and abilities, one was trying to be president and the other was going to be the president’s sidekick.
The local news was reporting one of Ms. Palin’s many interviews where all she would say is the difference between her and a put bull and blah, blah, blah. The interview ended and the local news anchor came back on camera. It must’ve been a little too soon because the anchor was rolling her eyes as if she was hearing the stupidest thing ever uttered. She caught herself a little too late. I interpreted the news anchor’s facial expression as contempt for Ms. Palin. And it was refreshing to see. It appeared that the news anchor and I shared a similar perspective.
Today I discovered that Helen Thomas, the nearly ninety year old Washington reporter who has covered the White House since the administration of President John F. Kennedy, resigned as a columnist for the Hearst News Service, after sparking a furor when she said that the Jews should get the hell out of Palestine and go home to Germany, Poland, the United States, or wherever they may come from. It turns out that Ms. Thomas is of Lebanese ancestry and has a reputation for being particularly hard against the state of Israel.
Her controversial statement was made about a week ago. Since then, many people have asked why this pillar of journalism would make such a statement. Could the fact that Israel has an embargo against the people of Palestine and has made the news recently when Israeli commandos stormed a ship trying to break the three year old blockade and wound up killing nine Turkish activists who were Palestinian sympathizers? Could it be the fact that Israel has killed and maimed thousands of Palestinians and continues to expand settlements in the occupied territory of Palestine? And while just about every other news reporter wants to remain neutral and somewhat oblivious to the cataclysm brewing in and around the Gaza strip, Ms. Thomas is speaking her mind about the outrage we see.
Instead of just setting up a camera and letting the Palestinian wreck just happen, at least Ms. Thomas is doing something to bring more attention to what’s going on. A lot of people have lost interest in what is happening in the occupied territory. A lot of people simply can’t believe Israel would be the aggressor. By tradition, our media paints the Palestinian people as the ones at fault here. Poor Israel is just trying to survive while Hamas, the legal governing body of Gaza, promises to wipe Israel off the fact of the earth. But if anything, it looks like Israel is trying to wipe the Palestinians and the Gaza strip off the face of the planet.
Ms. Thomas’ resignation is effective immediately. This is truly unfortunate. The woman doesn’t look like she has much in the way of locomotion. But if there was a news conference featuring the President of the United States, you could bet that Ms. Thomas would be there. At her age, she must have really enjoyed the job to keep going at it like she did. That or she really didn’t have much of anything else to do. I hope she continues expressing her opinion. At her age, she’s old enough and cranky enough to let people know exactly how she feels without pulling any punches. Now that she’s quit, her opinions just got a lot more interesting for me.