Those physician-reporters in Haiti 

Comforting the afflicted while jacking up ratings? Paging Dr. Gupta.       (cnn.com)

The first wave of journalists to reach Haiti last week included CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the telegenic brain surgeon who went to Iraq for the network in 2003 and ended up doing five operations while embeded as a journalist with the US Navy "Devil Docs."

Last week, CNN showed Gupta tenderly treating a newborn girl with a skull fracture in Port-au-Prince.

The second wave into Haiti included NBC's Dr. Nancy Snyderman and ABC's Dr. Richard Besser. All three have been toggling between reporting the story and treating patients. It seems the right thing to do -- and as physcians, all three took an oath to attend those in need. So why do their dual roles make people so uncomfortable? From the LAT:

(S)ome media ethicists said medical correspondents should consider forgoing their journalistic roles if they're going to participate in the relief effort. While reporters should help when they can save a life or prevent profound harm, "I think it's very hard for an individual who is professionally and emotionally engaged in saving lives to be able to simultaneously step back from the medical work and practice independent journalistic truth-telling," said Bob Steele, journalism values scholar at the Poynter Institute and journalism professor at DePauw University.

But this is more like the crux of it:

(B)y focusing on the work being done by their own staff, "news organizations at some point appear to be capitalizing for promotional reasons on the intervention by journalists," Steele added.

Very high ick-potential, in other words. When does showing your own, in-house network physcian treating the wounded at a disaster cross over from humanitarian to exploitative? Is it horribly crass or crass even to ask?

Snyderman, a head and neck cancer surgeon who arrived in Haiti on Saturday, said she is acutely aware of the conflict.

"Morally, I have a responsibility to help people," she said. "From a journalistic standpoint, I have a responsibility to tell stories. And in between is a very delicate balance that I wrestle with."

 

 

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