With Valentine's Day comes deep, heartfelt emotions of love, compassion, and care for our loved ones. For a journalist, Valentine's Day is one representation of the love that accompanies a sense of responsibility. A journalist is often pictured as someone with glasses sitting behind a laptop in a quiet, isolated room while typing up a casual report about a recent community issue, pausing in between paragraphs to sip a hot cup of tea conveniently placed on the desk. Maybe it's time we picture journalists from the perspective of journalists.
Gretchen Day-Bryant, the Assistant Managing Editor of South Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper, had a perspective to share that not many are aware of. Her story painted the picture of journalists who brought the theme of responsibility to life before, during, and after the wrath of Hurricane Irma.
“Disasters bring out the best in people,” Bryant said. This statement stood out to me most from her story. Disasters ignite a population’s sense of responsibility and drive people to action. At the centerpiece of such disasters are the individuals who become narrators of the critical situation. These journalists often face life-threatening circumstances as they report matters of urgency to a population facing a crisis. As Bryant described her experience as a reporter who became a narrator of Hurricane Irma to the public, I witnessed this theme of responsibility in journalism first-hand.
Any form of natural disaster poses serious threats to a population. Hurricane Irma was projected to be of particular strength and was one that Floridians expected to incur major damage. Many families fled the state, taking with them their valuable belongings. Those who stayed prepared for disaster the best they could, stocking their homes with sufficient amounts of water and food supplies. As Bryant described the pre-hurricane situation, she pointed out that even some reporters took their leave along with their families. They had a family to protect.
The most inspiring part of Bryant’s talk was her explanations about reporting the hurricane. She spent two and a half days at the office with several other reporters who were also involved in the hurricane reporting project. The coordination between the red and blue reporting teams was central to Bryant’s story. Of particular importance was the mention of the young reporter who expressed concern about the hurricane danger and began questioning her career choices. As she became engaged in the reporting process and actively involved herself in the situation, the young reporter realized how much she enjoyed being part of the team. In face of disaster, she was able to take a strong leap of faith and appreciate her role as a journalist.
Bryant mentioned several instances where reporters were under pressure from many factors including family safety, personal comfort, long working hours, and the constant threat of an ongoing hurricane. Despite such struggles, she relayed the value behind the reporters’ efforts in becoming the means to inform the public. Hurricane Irma was just one instance of how journalists like Bryant are committed to their responsibility as narrators of news to the larger population. While these reporters may normally sit behind a laptop and type up a casual report as they sip their cups of tea, they become true warriors during of times of disaster — ones who bring to life the words they write as they experience catastrophes like Hurricane Irma.
Next time you hear about a journalist, keep this story in mind. Our society consists of individuals who often take the front lines in face of disaster and offer their helping hands to those in need. Journalists are often first responders -- ones who immerse themselves in overwhelming odds to bring the news to millions of Americans. Not all heroes wear capes.