Finished reading my February book, Dispatches from the Edge (HarperCollins, 2006) by journalist and CNN host Anderson Cooper. It’s an easy read, very much like a blog, in which Anderson searches the logic behind his brother’s suicide, and correlates this personal tragedy to those whom he features for work.
He is blunt — he immediately dispels (implicitly) the notion that journalism is a noble job. More often, the job requires him to be a vulture — needing to circle around situations wherein people are weak and vulnerable, as in wars or the aftermath of a tsunami or hurricane, and swooping in to, not just get their stories, but stories that matter to network executives. In one occasion, he discusses touring a hospital in Africa, trying to find a child that looked starved and dying enough to capture on video.
If that sounds harsh, he is merely stating a sad truth about this world: it continually moves on. You die and life continues for others. Headlines are only as good as the day they are on the front page. There are other deaths, other wars, other tragedies elsewhere in the world. No experience is unique to just one person. In these terms, you are not special; hence, the need to find the most compelling and harrowing images.
I imagine the book is a tough pill to swallow to the non-pragmatic. Otherwise, it’s just another day for the desensitized. To quote the author, “some stories don’t have happy endings.”