“WHY ARE THEY DOING A STORY on him?” my husband asks. “Lots of people have cancer.”
I look over at him as we are watching the 10 p.m. news, astonished really that he would say this. He is, after all, married to a former newspaper reporter and a current freelance writer. If anyone should understand why the media is reporting on Anthony Hauser’s leukemia diagnosis, it should be my husband.
“Why are they doing a story on him?” I repeat. “Yeah, lots of people have cancer, but he’s not just anybody.”
Anthony Hauser is the father of Daniel Hauser, the 14-year-old Sleepy Eye boy who a year ago fled with his mother to avoid court-ordered chemotherapy treatment for his Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That, I not so gently explain to my spouse, is why this is news. The elder Hauser reportedly is not undergoing recommended chemotherapy, adding another twist to this ongoing saga that initially captivated a nation.
This conversation with my husband gets me thinking about how those outside the profession view the media and the stories they report. Generally speaking, people tend to blame the messenger—whether it be a newspaper, television, radio or other media source—for all the “bad stuff” happening in the world.
I’ve heard many times the criticism from family and friends wondering why the media reports a particular story. “Because it’s news,” I typically respond although often I want to scream, “Because it’s news!”
And then I want to add, and sometimes do, “Please don’t kill the messenger.” In other words, do not target your anger at the media. Direct your discontent, your anger, at the criminal, the politician, the oil company, the disease, whoever/whatever caused the news that is upsetting you.
I recall several years ago a front page article in The Faribault Daily News about a brown bear at the local library. Had this been a real bear stalking patrons or holed up in a tree near the library, this would have been front page news. But rather, this story told of a brown bear puppet incorporated into children’s story time programming.
In this instance, dear husband, dear reader, you would be right in asking, “Why are they doing a story on this?” A piece like this belongs inside the newspaper, perhaps as a feature, if even that.
From a journalist’s perspective, such stories are “fluff,” at best. It’s not that reporters don’t like writing about subjects that make readers feel all warm and fuzzy, but their primary job is to bring you the news, even the bad news like Anthony Hauser’s leukemia diagnosis.
© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling