Thursday, December 06, 2012

In the Moment

The day I arrived in Pittsburgh to open my run at the Funny Bone back in the 80's, a local event took the national spotlight.  A city politician hounded by the media over allegations of misconduct called a press conference at city hall.  He stepped to the podium in front of the reporters and gave a short rambling speech about how this publicity ruined his life.  He then took a hand gun out of a manila envelope, put the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger. 
It was a time when such press conferences were covered by a still photographer and writer, but one of the local television stations sent a reporter and video photographer.  His camera kept filming as the gun went off and the politician crumpled to the floor against a red streak of his own blood against the wall. The videographer stepped toward the podium and moved in for a close up on the lifeless face of the man as the press conference erupted into a cacophony of screams.  The camera man kept rolling.
The station aired a version of the video up to the moment the man put the gun to his mouth. The locals asked whether the video, even the sanitized version, should have been broadcast.  Only a few questioned why the camera man continued to film instead of trying to stop the politician  from killing himself or rendering aid after the shot. His reasoning was actually sound for the time.  He said, "I am a news photographer and my job is to cover the news. I can't do my job if I insert myself into the story or stop filming."  It made gruesome sense in a way.
Today things are different. Everyone has a cell phone with a video camera, still camera, instant communication with instant sharing.  So when a thug pushed Ki-Suck Han to his death on the subway track at 7th and 50th in New York city this week,  a local man got an iPhone picture of the Han moments before he was crushed by the on coming train. That picture became the front page of the New York Post. Hundreds of cell phone pictures of the dead man flooded the Internet before the Post cover was published.  The conductor of the train said that he had never seen so many people taking pictures, and so few trying to help.
What reality are we all living in? It's hard enough to justify  the actions of a 1980's reporter's  trying to document a public event that ended in tragedy, but normal citizens taking Instagram pictures of a crisis ending in death, rather than trying to help, is unconscionable. 
I have "beefed" about this before.  When will we look up from our hand held screens and actually be in the moment we're living? Heros don't take pictures of people in need, they drop what they are doing and help.  Are these smart phones making us smarter.... it doesn't appear so.
As you were,


P. Grecian said...

Yeah. Sad. :-(

Cheryl said...

Very well said, Jay!

Anonymous said...

I was thinking all the way through this, what's wrong with the camera man? Thanks for this, Jay. A little light... I hope it seeps in where it's needed.

P. Grecian said...

I know you're busy these days, Jay, but sure am missing your blog updates. If you read this...happy holidays.