Thursday, January 21, 2010

Anderson Cooper 360 Continues Live Reports From Haiti

Hi everyone. I guess the back-and-forth between Haiti and "The Best Political Team on Television" (TBPTOP) is going to be the format for 360 now, at least while Anderson Cooper is still on the ground. Wolf Blitzer and his rag-tag team of pundits covered some important domestic news, but I'm going to keep this post Haiti focused. If I have some time this weekend, I might try to highlight some of the non-Haiti stories I have been ignoring.

It's becoming increasingly difficult to describe the quake-ravaged country without becoming repetitive. Devastation. Catastrophe. Crisis. Desperation. Heartbreaking. Unfathomable. I feel like I need to invest in a thesaurus to do these blog posts. It's the same situation regarding the work of our CNN friends. Stellar. Excellent. Exemplary. Fantastic. Heroic. Awe-inspiring. Every night a solid broadcast produced by people who have seen too much, and who have to be at the point of beyond exhaustion.

But it's another day and there are more stories to tell. The show starts with an extremely disturbing report from Karl Penhaul. He and crew witnessed young men shot in the back by Haitian police over bags of rice. Their camera catches the bloody aftermath. In a scene reminiscent of the death of Neda during the Iranian uprising, we're shown a 20-year-old man taking his last breaths. There's confusion over exactly what happened, but witnesses are adamant that the victims were not looting. Whatever happened, it's a disconcerting development. The video below contains Karl's piece, as well as discussion with Anderson afterward.

Anderson Cooper again spent time at General Hospital, this time in the pediatric ward. An 11-year-old with broken legs continuously screams. It's pretty horrific. There Anderson also meets a little boy named Johnny, one of Haiti's newest orphans. They don't even know his last name. Unlike the children who had adoptive parents waiting for them in the states, orphans like Johnny have no one and nothing. What will become of him and others is anybody's guess. As for the hospital, supplies continue to be an issue. And most of what they do have is not meant to be used on children. Large needles for tiny veins. Large masks for tiny faces. Nothing seems to fit in Haiti.

Tired of watching patients suffer due to lack of supplies, Sanjay Gupta and his producer Danielle Dellorto headed out to the airport themselves to see what they could acquire. There they found crates and boxes of must-needed aid. Just sitting. This. Is. Infuriating. I am trying to believe it just got there. I am trying to believe it was then quickly distributed out. I am trying not to think of the post-amputation patients writhing in pain with only Motrin to alleviate their symptoms. Eventually, Sanjay finds antibiotics and pain medications, and uses what appears to be a trash bag to transport them to the Bitar brothers we met yesterday. A success, but one made with a camera and one of America's most recognizable doctors. What about the rest?

While talking with Anderson after his piece, Sanjay notes that CNN's Brian Todd stopped him at the airport because there was a little boy with a brain injury who needed help. I'm sure by now many of you have read some of the ongoing criticism/questions regarding TV doctors blurring their journalistic roles during this crisis (see this TVnewser post for links to several examples). I don't really want to give the arm chair quarter-backing too much focus while Haitians are still dying, but this seems like a good time to note the ridiculousness of the hand-wringing.

This isn't about promotion or ratings or picking the most photogenic patient for the shot (yes, that idea has actually been posited). Sanjay Gupta can't seem to go more than 10 feet without coming across an individual who is in dire need of his help. And thank God he's there. What should he have said to the injured child Brian showed him? "Sorry dying boy, but right now I'm in my journalist role." Ridiculous.

I like to refer to myself as a news snob. I have great affinity for journalistic principles. But in my opinion, those doing the criticism should tread very lightly unless they've actually been on-the-ground themselves. As Anderson noted previously, the camera lens can only capture so much. We're only seeing a fraction of what they're seeing. We're not hearing all the screams, smelling the endless death, feeling the panic of the earth suddenly shaking. They're reporting from hell and back home the media is nitpicking their methods. It's disgusting.

For a lighter moment--if one could call it that--there was an aftershock that occurred while Karl Penhaul's piece was running. We're shown video of Anderson's live shot in order to get an idea of what the experience was like for them. Obviously initially scary, but I love how he and Karl nervously smile at each other when it's over. A completely normal reaction, of course. It's a look that says "that was a little scary, but yay we're okay." You can see the aftershock at the beginning of the following video, and that is then followed by Sanjay's piece and subsequent talk with Anderson.

If there's anything sadder than orphans struggling following a disaster, it's orphans who didn't make it through the quake at all. Gary Tuchman reports from Our Lady of Nativity Orphanage, destroyed. Now workers are attempting to recover dozens of tiny bodies, while 74 surviving children live outside. French families had been waiting to adopt the orphans, many of their dreams now dashed. We do get a glimmer of good news though. Little orphan Jenna who Gary introduced us to previously is now with her mom in Denver. Gary thinks he may have spotted a future champion skier. Give us a future happy, healthy little girl and we'll call it a win.

The broadcast wraps up with Ivan Watson, Sanjay, Gary, and Anderson talking about their experiences and any updates they can give. Of particular note, Gary tells us the nursing home he reported on last night has received some supplies, but the residents remain outside and there is no plan. So sad.

Because the coverage is a team effort, I want to try to highlight the work of as many people I can. So this is my shout out to Vladimir Duthiers, translator:

And because we can always use a smile:

My regular readers are probably getting sick of his by now, but here's my spiel: At this time, my main focus is distributing information, and highlighting the stellar work of the CNNers, which is causing the world to take notice of the crisis. As previously noted, I've been doing a lot of Haiti-related tweeting, and you can follow me at @newsjunkie365. I've also set up a special Twitter List of journalists and a few others on-the-ground in Haiti. And as always, check out CNN Impact to learn how to help.

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Blogger Anne said...

Hi Eliza,

Regarding the nitpickers, they can save that for the Golden Globes, Oscars, etc. It's disgusting to come up with such criticisms while they are sitting on their padded chairs in air tempature controlled areas. If they had to spend a day there in the hell that is Haiti, they would be fighting for the first flight out. The Tsunami of 2004 affected 18 countries, the earthquake's death total will equal or pass that of the Tsunami. So nitpickers, unless you are doing something to help relieve the suffering, shut up. Nightline has left Haiti behind, they spent Thursday's show discussing Edward's love child. Who could not smile with the child pulled from the rubble? I can only hope that soon supplies will not be sitting on the tarmac and instead be where it's needed.

6:37 AM  
Blogger eliza said...

Nightline has left Haiti behind, they spent Thursday's show discussing Edward's love child.

Oh, you're kidding me. When that story first broke yesterday my initial thought was that at least with more important stories in the news, we wouldn't have to hear about that mess. Then I remembered our media. Never underestimate their ability to be idiotic. I've very happy 360 is sticking to what's important.

The criticism is inevitable, but it makes me mad, especially those who question the reporters' intentions. is what it is. What are you going to do?

5:46 PM  

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