A grand debate has been swirling around social media in recent weeks as Reporters and Anchors across the country have essentially 'risked their lives' to report during severe weather. Many viewers are left with the question, "Why are Reporters risking their own lives while advising others to save theirs?"
Most recently, during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, dozens of video clips were shared across all social media platforms showing Reporters bracing themselves while being pelted by rain and nearly being blown away by high winds. Both storms left destruction in their paths and dozens dead in the Caribbean and the Southern United States. Harvey claimed the lives of more than 60 people, as the city was advised NOT to evacuate. In Hurricane Irma, the death toll is currently at 38 dead in the Caribbean with an additional 11 fatalities between Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina (According to the AP).
If our Governors and the 'News Media' didn't advise millions to evacuate, chances are there would be hundreds more dead in Harvey and Irma's wrath.
As I find myself reporting during tornadoes or hurricanes, I often think of the classic line from The Lion King, when Simba tries to prove that he's tiny but mighty, saying,
"Hah! I walk on the wild side. I laugh in the face of danger!"
Most on-air talent have probably found themselves in "the face of danger" at one point or another.
I currently live on the Gulf Coast in Mobile, Alabama. A bay city that is no stranger to hurricanes or tornadoes. My sister asked me the other day, "So, are you going to evacuate if Hurricane Irma heads your way?" I chuckled, and told her, "No sis, in fact, I'd probably be out in the thick of the storm, simply because that's my job. That's what I signed up for." She was baffled, but also worried, left wondering how a job could allow you to jeopardize your life? Is it really worth it?
I believe most Reporters would say that it is worth it, and here's why:
Most times our producers or News Directors say, "Hey, the hurricane is headed our way, I need you to grab a Photog, grab a Live U, and hit the door. We need you LIVE in all shows!"
At that moment you take a deep breath and say a quick prayer, as you slide on those rain boots, grab your umbrella, and hope for the best.
As I said before, it's our job. Our duty as 'the media' is to let the public know what's going on in the world around us, and that includes covering severe weather. A slogan often used in news is, "Show me, tell me." We 'show' you what the conditions look like and we 'tell' you what you need to know, to keep you and your family safe.
We are expected to be in dangerous situations for the common goal of public safety. Just as First Responders have the duty to protect and serve, we uphold the duty to inform the public. Imagine if there were no Reporters covering severe weather in the field. Would you really have a true idea of what's going on in the world outside of your "neck of the woods"? A radar alone won't tell you whats really happening outside your door.
With that being said, NO Reporter should put their life in danger. We do have the right to tell our News Director that we don't feel safe, and most times they don't want you risking your life either.
No "live-shot" is worth your life. I encourage other Reporters to exercise that right. If you don't feel safe, you're probably not and you should seek shelter ASAP!
Although it may be treacherous outside, I believe most Reporters do a good job of keeping themselves out of harms way. We are often put up in hotels or are able to seek shelter in a parked car away from raging wind and flying debris.
I thank God for the fact that myself and many of my reporter friends are still standing after severe weather coverage! The worst of it all is probably going home completely soaked and looking dishevelled.
One time during tornado coverage I lost a hat, but I charged it to the game, because at least I left with my life!
Personally, I find comfort in knowing that through my reporting, I may have saved a few lives.
I think other Reporters feel the same gratification.
So, the next time you see a Reporter seemingly risking it all during a storm, tornado, or hurricane, don't judge them. Thank them.