We expect reporters to keep their composure no matter what they're covering, whether it's a catastrophic natural disaster like the earthquake in Japan, a murdered child found on the side of the road, or a civilian bombing. Still, after watching meteorologist Mike Bettes of The Weather Channel crying on camera over Joplin, Missouri's deadly tornado this morning, I think the news would benefit from getting in touch with its emotional side.
Watch the video to see what I mean (this is a long clip; Bettes starts to get choked up at around 4:19):
At least 89 people were killed in the tornado, estimated to be the worst twister the state has ever seen. The footage of flattened neighborhoods and flipped cars and shattered windows was unquestionably dramatic, but it wasn't until Bettes broke down sobbing that the magnitude of what happened in Joplin really hit me. Here's a man who's no stranger to extreme weather -- Bettes is the leader of a group of stormchasers working on a project called The Great Tornado Hunt -- and even he couldn't hold back his tears.
There are those who'd say that reporters are required to remain stoic at all times and that emotional displays of any kind are unprofessional. This makes sense to me if the topic at hand is politics or a criminal trial or the economy, but if it's a flat-out indisputable tragedy like a killer tornado, I'd welcome more honest, human reactions from the media. Our society is dangerously desensitized as it is. If a reporter is moved by a story, let's see it. Maybe we'll give ourselves permission to be moved, too.