Staff Writer - Katrin Callender

I was pleasantly surprised when I watched the funeral of Whitney Huston on CNN. I had been turned off by the manner in which similar events had been covered, both locally and abroad, in the past few years. I often looked at the news with skepticism, disappointment or rage bubbling within. I wondered why it was necessary to show a heartbroken mother’s violent weeping, a broken body beneath a mangled vehicle or the trail of blood and bullet- riddled wall at a crime scene. Why show an abused woman’s wounds, or exposed underwear, or uncombed hair. I understood the desire to captivate audiences; to produce a realistic picture; or to spur action where you might instead find indifference.

Yet the media expressed the desire to be respectful of the wishes articulated by Huston’s family and the church. Positioned some distance away, CNN personnel conducted their interviews and described to audiences the goings-on of that most solemn afternoon. There was even a pause to return to the station to look at the news elsewhere. I commend the staff at CNN for the manner in which they reported on the funeral.

Naturally, there were moments that I thought could have been handled better, such as their investigating the arrival and departure of Bobby Brown and his entourage. And although it was true that many celebrities were in attendance, I found it somewhat irksome that it was referred to as a star-studded event.  But personal bias aside, their effort was memorable because of the level of professionalism employed and because I felt that Huston’s passing, and her family’s pain were treated in as dignified a manner as could be offered.

This is what I ask of every media house. The fact is that the dead, the injured and the vulnerable need our support and respect. We cannot merely sit back and salivate over the ‘juicy’ details and forget that the situation is being experienced by a fellow human being. We may be tempted to withdraw from the reality and act as though unfolding events are some TV drama that we can choose to watch, or turn off.

True, the choice to do either is ours. But would you rather be a voyeur or a volunteer; bystander or doer of good? And, if circumstances do not permit you to get involved, might your contribution be a change in ethos?  One wherein you vow to see and treat people as people-with strengths and shortcomings- rather than as mere characters, constructed solely to be favoured or discarded, by us, the detached audience.