Three memorable examples of reporters reacting to news as it unfolded.
- On May 6, 1937, the LZ 129 Hindenburg zeppelin caught on fire and fell from the sky carrying with it 97 terrified passengers. Thirty-five of them died. Radio announcer Herbert Morrison was there that day in New Jersey. His frantic description of what he saw and his horrified cries immortalized him.1
- When TV anchor Walter Cronkite broke the news November 22, 1963 that the president, John F. Kennedy, was just shot, his composure during the developing event would later became part of a collective memory. Video of the live CBS News report accompanies a 2007 article in which writer Tatiana Morales describes Cronkite as “calm” and “measured.”2. Just as poignant: once Cronkite announced Kennedy’s time of death, for a few seconds he struggled with the meaning of those words. For such professionalism Cronkite was praised. For that emotional moment in which he reacted — that realness — he was respectfully remembered.
- In another telling moment from CBS News, this time in 1979, journalist Ed Bradley reacted boldly in his first 60 Minutes appearance. Colleague Mike Wallace set the scene by introducing the news item.3 Bradley not only reported on the Vietnamese refugees arriving by dilapidated boat on to the beaches of a Malaysian island, he became part of the news by wading into the Pacific Ocean to help bring the sick and fragile to shore.
Instinctive responses by reporters have morphed into something else. It’s certainly more common these days for journalists to purposely inject their personal thoughts and feelings into their reports. Sometimes the move from observer to commentator is seamless; other times, it just doesn’t work and audiences are quick to respond.