Okay, I'm a wreck. Haiti has long been on my radar, especially after two attempts in the 1990s to travel there with service groups and both times denied access because of the political upheavals. I have followed its issues and overthrows ever since, and barraged workers from NGOs or mission agencies with questions. I have supported friends who've cared for people there. So when I went to find out more about the unbelievable devastation that's hit the already troubled island, I came instead across one too many stories not on the shattered country, but on Pat Robertson and some comments he's made about it.
This is not news. The news is the earthquake, the grieving families, the leveled homes, the enormous loss of lives and gifts and assets to an already impoverished people. Maybe editors or reporters themselves did not know how to process the sheer horror of the story so they looked instead to an off-the-cuff comment from a man with a lifetime of personal convictions and public expressions of them. Maybe he'd sell papers, they thought. So their coverage of Robertson spiraled to an absurdity as senseless as the one they claimed of him; in short, it was a whole lot of thoughtless reporting, more tired attempts to paint evangelicals as insensitive morons.
Really, who cares what a television host believes about such a tragedy? We need updates on the rescue efforts, not distractions. We need information about relief and families—much of which will be coming from workers in Christian agencies—not stereotypes. We need stories of what's happened and how we can help. Not little comments of why it happened at all.
SO at the risk of sounding, well, preachy, the media is in need of a renewed sense of purpose. Lately, many of its representatives seemed to have suffered from a memory lapse of their primary role in reporting the real news. For journalism's success will never be found in economic terms, but only in useful service to its readers. God help us. God help Haiti.