Healthy Journalism

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A million stories

Read, listen and watch coverage coming out of the catastrophe in Haiti and you quickly realize there are as many different stories as there are reporters.

At least two journalists who’ve been writing and reporting on Haiti will be talking with Grady health and medical journalism students this semester.

NPR health policy reporter Joanne Silberner was supposed to be with us tomorrow, but late last week she boarded a plane with an Atlanta-based medical relief team. Narrowly avoiding a mid-air collision over Port-au-Prince, the team was sidelined in Turks and Caicos before they finally set foot in Haiti.

Joanne promises to stay safe and reschedule for later in the semester.
An entirely different view comes from Deborah Blum, a Grady College graduate and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who teaches science journalism at the University of Wisconsin. On the January 15 op-ed page of the New York Times, she wrote a powerful and poetic essay about the dangerous inner life of our planet and the possibility of predicting earthquakes.

Deborah will visit JRMC 7355 in late March to talk about her newest book, The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensics in Jazz Age New York, which comes out February 18.

Watching television coverage of Haiti today, I’m reminded of reports of rapes and murders in the Super Dome. While people died there, of injury and neglect, the savagery proved largely fictitious. Someday we may look back on Haitians labeled as “looters” and see only desperate people, out of options and desperate to feed their families.

If journalists don’t get it right the first time, at least we have another chance tomorrow.