Journalism: Painful Truth-Tellers or Emotional Vultures


            Diana Sugg’s Anatomy of the Story is everything reporting should be and everything it shouldn’t be. The gripping emotional rawness is compelling and it’s hard not to identify with her struggle with journalistic ethics. To maintain a separation of author and subject or to be pulled into the story itself by the brutal reality of watching a child die. Journalists constantly hear that they must maintain distance from their subject in order to report their story accurately but I can’t help but feel an emotional coolness even in this story, which is so painful. I can feel Sugg struggle with her feelings towards this boy and his mother but in the article, Sugg maintains that she kept an appropriate distance and somehow that feels cold to me. In a like this I can’t help but feel that the emotional distance, while appropriate and a proactive defense against an inevitable end, added pain to this little boy’s life. Maybe my inability to separate my emotions from my writing makes me a bad prospective journalist or maybe its watching my sister nearly die in the hospital several times over that makes this story hit so close to home; but whatever it is I can’t deny that this story brought out conflicting emotions.

My little sister (or as I call her my baby girl)

My little sister (or as I call her my baby girl)

            The good: Sugg may have kept her distance from her subject but she forces readers to regard the fact that they will die one day by describing a child’s excruciating deathbed in a sort of emotional 1, 2, punch. The devastation in the wake of this little one’s passing makes the reality of death all the more clear. It has the impact that a news story should have, the brutal reality presented clearly and concisely so that the public can wrestle with the hard questions of life.

The bad: Sugg’s emotional detachment towards a child is chilling. I recognize that she attempted to be professional and only did what was necessary for the child in times when no one else could. But to watch a child die and only do the bare minimum to ease their suffering is callous. That type of professional aloofness, although sometimes necessary, couldn’t have been explained to a child thus leading me to believe she hurt more than she helped with her search for a story.

Its not that stories like these shouldn’t be written, they should, but there must be an ethical middle ground in which a journalist can also be human with all the emotions and pain that entails and not an emotional vulture seeking the pain of a story without embracing it as well.

(photo courtesy of

(photo courtesy of


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