Today’s News Headlines: All About Me!

By William J. Furney

So many things we do in life are designed to give our ego a lift, to put us ahead of others and make ourselves seem that more important. Such is the pulse of life, the evolution of ourselves. The ego, in equilibrium, is a vital element of survival.

Watching the American parachute journalists on CNN and Fox News cover the Haiti earthquake disaster, it was obvious that, for the reporter, the story was about them, and what colossal tragedy lay beyond the camera lens was secondary.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper incongruously made his name by training a handycam on his face as he toured disaster-struck regions of the world, even though the reportage was largely a homage to himself, the reporter, the scenes of destruction eclipsed by a full-screen head.

And there he was in Port-au-Prince, camera studiously focused on his frame while gut-wrenching scenes played out around him, wails and screams of pain playing second fiddle to this egotistical drama.

What’s the point of covering an event if viewers can’t see it? It’s little wonder Cooper’s ratings have plunged so low they’re almost undetectable. (Everyone’s Hero was also brazenly filmed pulling a bloodied boy from a mob – while another reporting luminary was manning deserted field hospitals and performing brain surgery aboard a military ship, between reports.)

It was the same on Fox News, only much worse, with nomadic reporter Steve Harrigan, who permanently wears an audience-loves-me half-smile, shamefully crying his eyes out on camera. (How’s that for a cry for attention?)

And in a subsequent piece-to-camera on the live-to-tape O’Reilly Factor, Harrigan peppered his “report” with “I, I, I” and in essence focused the entire segment on himself, effectively eschewing the terrible human crisis all around him. He went as far as to tell viewers what effect the earthquake disaster was having on him.

These are egos out of control.

It was a shocking display of how people use tragedy to bolster their own self-worth, as – in these approval-seeking reporters’ cases – they transplant themselves into a disaster situation and turn the attention on themselves.

It was enough to make you want to turn off, or at least switch to BBC or Al Jazeera, which have the sense to know that a reporter is at a location to report a story, not to turn it into a self-serving ego expedition. Appropriately, one BBC primetime report scanned the devastation without even a sign of the journalist, only his voiceover.

A colleague who worked on a TV newsdesk in the US said she was dismayed by the obscene focus on the reporters, and not the story, and has vowed never to work in broadcast journalism again, instead preferring print. A most sensible girl (with muted apologies to our CNN colleagues in Hong Kong).

Social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter are allowing ordinary folk their own opportunity for ego-broadcasting. The more hollow among us attempt to fill up their lives with brag-and-boast fests, as they desperately seek notice and recognition.

It’s an off-kilter manifestation slice of Freud’s superego, portrayed as the personality equivalent of the tip of an iceberg that’s built on the foundation of the inherent psychic character, the id: much more lurks beneath the surface. But, Freud said, the superego – not, as might be assumed, an outsized ego – is meant to point out what is behaviourally right and wrong, and with instances of the latter carries feelings of guilt.

American TV news reporting would be so much more credible, and less cringe-worthy, if those relaying events would keep their egos in check, and if the executives above them demanded as much.

Extraordinary acts can be achieved with a healthy superego. Last week it took an internet company to stand up to the might of Communist China, when the supposed leader of the free world and Nobel Peace Price laureate was busy hiding from one of the world’s most peaceful men, the Dalai Lama, while advancing overseas war efforts.

On Tuesday, as Obama’s poll rating dived, Google announced it was postponing the planned launch of its heralded, new mobile phone in China, in a move that proves its gravity – and respect for human rights and the best values of humanity.

There is hope yet. If only we could rein in those ridiculous reporters.

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