The reporting from Ukraine is breaking my heart for many reasons, some of which I did not expect when it began flooding our homes with information in that faraway land.
One reason is so obvious I shouldn’t have to mention it. The destruction is beyond belief. The pain of the people who endure it also defies my ability to comprehend how they cope and how they can hope for a better future.
But then I watch the broadcast and cable TV journalists covering the event and I am filled with compassion for them as well. What are they feeling when they confront such misery? How do they possibly report the news dispassionately?
I did not have the honor — and that’s how I would describe it — of covering a war in real time back when I worked in the field full time. The closest I came occurred in 1989 when I visited the Killing Fields at Choeng Ek, Cambodia, where the survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide had erected temples containing the skulls of thousands of victims dug from mass graves.
I visited with those who lived through that horrifying episode. I can recall one comment from a woman with whom I was visiting. She told me, “If the Khmer Rouge come back, we all will become soldiers.”
I got on the bus that would take us back to Phnom Penh … and I sobbed.
Thus, I have difficulty imagining how the reporters covering the Ukraine War can avoid getting caught up in the raw emotion of seeing the destruction being inflicted on brave people in real time.
For all I know, they are sobbing, too. That doesn’t make them less professional. It just reveals their humanity.