Press becomes part of the story in Texas

Press becomes part of the story in Texas
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Reporters have become a part of the story in Texas, where catastrophic floods from Hurricane Harvey has displaced tens of thousands and captivated a national audience.

The magnitude of the disaster is still taking shape, and news teams have become a part of the news they are covering repeatedly.

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A CNN broadcast team put down their equipment to help one victim, and was credited with saving the man’s life. In another case, an ABC reporter stirred controversy by alerting police to looters.

Anchors and reporters on television have also shown an eagerness to tell the people they are interviewing — and those watching at home — that they want to be helpful in getting the word out about the dangers of the storm.

While that kind of public service is not out of the norm, the other examples are a bit unusual. Reporters are generally trained to stay out of the story, and many are uncomfortable getting into situations where they are part of the news.

"It's easy for the media to show dedication and public concern in the midst of a natural disaster," said Jeff McCall, a professor of media studies at DePauw University. "The media need to consider this approach more broadly on nonweather issues, seeking to serve the public with information and rational story-telling, while toning down the shrill politicization that we've seen so much in recent years."

"It also needs this kind of image building after years of declining credibility polls and the growth of public sentiment that the media act only out of self-interest," McCall said.

"That narrative of media selfishness and broken trust has been fueled by the Trump movement, but was well underway before Trump's political emergence."

Hurricane Harvey struck at a time of intense political polarization that has repeatedly put the spotlight on the national media. President Trump has consistently railed about “fake news,” and the White House versus the press narrative has been a constant storyline of 2017.

The footage of CNN reporter Drew Griffin and his crew rescuing a man who inadvertently drove his vehicle into a flooded area in Beaumont, Texas, went viral.

“We just literally rescued this guy out,” said Griffin, who was scheduled to do a live shot at that moment with CNN anchor John Berman.

“I want to thank these guys for saving my life,” Jerry Sumrall of Winnie, Texas, told Griffin on live TV.

Mediaite contributing editor Larry O’Connor said the dramatic footage likely had people at home rooting for the reporters to take action.

“There are oftentimes viewers are sitting in the living room yelling at the television 'put the camera down and put the microphone down and help these people out instead of broadcasting the worst moment of their lives to the world,' ” he said.

Other instances of the media inserting themselves into the story haven’t gone as well.

ABC reporter Tom Llamas came under heavy criticism on social media after tweeting that he was witnessing “looting” at a large supermarket in Houston, and had informed local police and the Coast Guard.

Many accused Llamas of snitching on hungry residents attempting to survive.

 

Llamas later said that he had informed police who were already in the area. 

Another viral moment came when a Houston woman blew up at CNN reporter Rosa Flores during a live interview moments after she and her two children arrived at a Houston shelter.

“Y’all trying to interview people during their worst times. That’s not the smartest thing to do,” the woman told Flores.

“People are really breaking down and y’all sitting here with cameras and microphones trying to ask us what the f--- is wrong with us,” she continued as Flores pulled the microphone away only to put it back near Danielle.

“And you really trying to understand with the microphone still in my face! With me shivering cold, with my kids wet! And you’re still putting a microphone in my face!”