No Stranger To Covering Disasters

Saturday, 10.27.07

John certainly is no stranger to covering disasters:  9/11. Indonesian Tsunami. Katrina. Southern California Fires…

These aren’t the first difficult assignments he has had to cover and and unfortunately they won’t be the last, because who knows what the future holds? We hope and pray that our futures will be bright and safe, but in this day and age, no one knows when the next major disaster will strike.

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(Screencap courtesy of ATA)

As many of John’s loyal viewers already know, his coverage of the Indonesian Tsunami was one of the events that influenced decisions leading to his assignment as CNN’s Chief National Correspondent back in 2005.

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In the press release describing John’s new position within CNN, Jon Klein had this to say:

“John is a brilliant journalist who approaches each assignment with great fervor and dedication. During his on-site reporting of the tsunami aftermath, we witnessed the breadth of John’s capabilities beyond the White House beat. Our viewers are better served by having him out in the field.”

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(Reporting in front of an orphanage turned into housing for Tsunami victims)

Back in August, John provided us with some of his perspective on covering major disasters:

“I’m always skittish when it is a tragedy like Katrina or the tsunami – you want to hear the emotions and the horror because it is part of the story, but I worry about exploiting people who are in pain.”

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During his St. Anselm Q & A Session in June of this year, he told students about the power video and pictures have when used to cover major news stories (such as presidential debates) and national/international disasters:

”It’s one of the things – it stuck in my head most of all when I went to cover the Tsunami in Indonesia, after the Tsunami, that’s when it really delved in my head, how powerful TV is. The pictures are so important.”

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So how does a seasoned reporter like John King, even with pictures and video images at his disposal, convey the true scope of major disasters to viewers? During his William and Smith commencement speech last year, he talked about the challenges he faces with that very question:

“I learned the frustrating limits of…the pictures we are told can be worth a thousand words. I met [a man named Sabri] in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, after the tsunami. I could not find a way to tell his story the way it deserved to be told and it still haunts me… I could see the pain of thousands in the eyes of this one man, but I couldn’t find the words to do it justice.”

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(Sabri, above, and a picture of his missing daughter, below)

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As difficult these stories are to cover, it is the reporters like John who bring some semblance of meaning to what people are going through when they are faced with unthinkable loss and pain.

And even though his assignments are difficult, he says that the job of reporting about these disasters is nothing compared what to the families and so many others are going through as they watch their lives changed forever by a tragedy.

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