Blurring Lines? Chris Cuomo Connects Hurricane Victims with Families…While Cameras Roll


CNN New Day host Chris Cuomo has traveled far south in the past few days in the Hurricane-ravaged Florida Keys to report on ongoing recovery efforts. This morning  he filed a moving account of survivors in Big Pine Key connecting with loved ones to tell them they are alive yet still struggling to make sense of what happened.

These scenes – the sort of heart-warming moments that connect viewers – only occurred because of the communication equipment that CNN had with them, and the fact that producers decided to capture with cameras rolling. This decision raises question of where reporters draw the line between simply reporting the news and inserting themselves into the story, however admirable.

I have to admit that, while watching the clip above in real time, I experienced that two internal monologues going on at the same time, just like that standard cartoon-trope of an angel and devil speaking into my ear. The angelic, and empathetic, voice easily connected with the raw emotions portrayed in the broadcast images, while the cynical devilish voice (developed from years of producing television myself) couldn’t ignore the crew behind the scenes, and noticed a slightly self-serving segment that would have been no less meaningful to the victims had the cameras not been rolling.

But these scenes revealed another interesting editorial decision, ostensibly made by CNN President Jeff Zucker.  Like every other broadcast and cable news outlet, CNN covered the impact of Hurricane Irma on Florida and Caribbean Islands in full force, seemingly sending most of their prime time hosts and non-political reporters on scene to report in real time. But whereas other outlets have mostly returned to more standard cable news fare, CNN has doubled down on the recovery efforts in Florida and has uncovered some remarkable human interest stories best evidenced by the scenes in the clip above.

The programming zigging to the other cable news zag seems a smart one, and plays right into CNN’s old school wheelhouse of covering big news stories in a tireless and comprehensive manner. Hurricane coverage might be synonymous with rains-soaked and windswept reportage, but the REAL story is the earliest days of recovery when real human beings are crawling out of safe spaces to find their lives in different states of ruin.

So which of my inner-monologues won the day? Well I put the jaded skeptical perspective aside and was won over by this effort. Perhaps this is because Chris Cuomo has a well-earned reputation as a fair, thoughtful and very respectful person, or maybe because that – apart from CNN – recovery efforts in Florida are being criminally underreported. But in my mind, there is very little room to critique on-the-ground reporting efforts in a disaster recovery, even if the chyron on this segment seems somewhat self-serving with the “CNN Helps Hurricane Irma Victims Connect with Family.”

It is all to easy — and often intellectually lazy — to have a cynical take on everything one sees on television. And though I am not particularly religious, I do believe in Maimonides’ levels of charity that puts anonymously helping those in need above all others.

But Cuomo wasn’t just helping families connect with loved ones. By broadcasting this segment, he was reminding viewers that the Hurricane story has only begun, and that there is vast amount of human beings really struggling with survival after the rains and wind had abated. He may have inserted himself into the story, but he did it for the best reasons. And by sharing this experience on cable news, he was also doing his job.

Watch the clip above courtesy of CNN.

–image via screencap–


This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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