“Disaster fatigue” is a terrible concept when it describes the public’s interest in a tragedy, but in the case of the journalists who are in Haiti right now who are trying to help as well as report, it’s a real thing. Obviously, it’s the people of Haiti who deserve the most attention and compassion, but as Alessandra Stanley points out in the Times today, unlike many disasters (or, we’d add, near-disasters, such as Balloon Boy or the annual parade of hurricane near-misses), “The Haiti story needs no hyping. If anything, television understates the horror by balancing harrowing sights with miniature portraits of hope.”
As Stanley also points out, the public needs the hope stories to continue caring and giving, but one journalist is balancing the others’ stories of hope with his own outrage at the senseless death he’s witnessing. Anderson Cooper, who was one of the very first reporters on the ground in Port-au-Prince, where he’s reported constantly ever since, usually covered in dirt and sweat and unable to hide emotions ranging from outrage to despair to terror, is the guy we’ve been glued to in order to help us understand the crisis — and, believe us, we’re usually the last to praise TV reporters covering disasters. This time, though, there’s nothing remotely sensational about Cooper’s coverage.
Last night in an appearance on Larry King Live, Cooper described the bodies piled up and the frustration of senseless death: “There’s just stupid death happening here now. It doesn’t have to happen, and it’s really upsetting to see. A little girl is dying because her leg was crushed. Someone doesn’t have to die of that. A leg can be amputated if there’s a doctor there to do it. If there’s antibiotics, they can take an infection to be treated. It doesn’t have to spread through the body and kill somebody. It’s really stupid. It’s infuriating. People died today who did not need to die. People will die tonight, in the next hour, who do not need to die.”