There are a handful of occasions when it might be appropriate for a reporter to allow himself to become part of the story. Only a handful.
And what those stories tend to have in common is that they’re almost always feature stories that are a good distance away from serious news.
An Associated Press reporter recently made himself part of the story to go scuba diving into “the murky depths” of the Gulf of Mexico. With him was a professional diver.
The reporter interviewed the diver about what he had been seeing before the oil rig explosion, where he noted “snot balls” of an oil-like chemical substance that appeared in billowing strands at a certain level beneath the surface that he’d never seen before. Then, he compared that to what he has seen after the explosion, including more pronounced oil contamination.
This is a diving expert who has a permit to dive to check on coral reefs. He is familiar with these waters. He’s seen both the “before” and the “after.” Even though he has a potential bias against the oil companies because of the environmental threat involved with offshore drilling, he’s still a reasonable source of information, especially when there’s video to demonstrate what he’s seeing under the surface that could be independently analyzed by other experts.
But the reporter’s account of having to undergo thirty minutes of cleaning to get the oil off before the captain of the ship would allow him onto the boat seems excessive. His footnote that because he had oil on his feet, standing up resulted in him falling back into the water — and another half-hour of cleaning — isn’t likely to elicit that much sympathy from a largely anti-reporter audience.
Send the camera down with the diver. Or go along with the camera then tape the process of the diver being forced to undergo a half-hour of scraping and scrubbing to get the oil off. The diver is doing what he’s supposed to be doing.
The reporter didn’t have to jump in.
What do you think? Click the link above and you’ll see the video, which, does not include the cleanup part, and focuses more on what’s under the surface. It’s the write-up on Huffington Post that goes into the extra detail of the cleanup process post-dive.
It seems to me that the video piece alone does the story more than justice without needing to bring the reporter’s personal experience into it. What do you think?