Throughout our careers, whether advanced or just at their beginning, we are all exposed to scenarios which challenge everything that we know. How we deal with such scenarios defines whether we can actually be deemed professionals in our respective fields or not.
For instance, as a physician, I am responsible to treat every single human being, within the confines of my capacities, regardless of who that person is, what atrocities they may or may not have committed, the insults they’ve hurled at me or their overall demeanor. All of this becomes second-rate information next to the job and vocation that I’m supposed to accomplish.
Journalists and reporters have an equally important job towards people: theirs is to educate, expose, inform, and shape opinions in a way to challenge the status quo. It is not ironic, for instance, that the more American culture veers towards what is more viral and what is more eye-catching, that more people are infatuated with a creature like Donald Trump.
But I digress. Today, Nawal Berri, you have failed.
Yesterday, supporters of the YouStink movement were commemorating the one year anniversary of the protests that rocked Beirut last summer, got the government to come down on us with guns and tear gas bombs, and led to Downtown being blocked for almost a year from Lebanese.
The protests, which aimed at getting the government to tackle a growing garbage crisis which they have failed to do to this day, morphed into something bigger and ultimately beyond the capacities of such a movement leading it to succumb under its own weight, much to the pleasure of someone like Nawal Berri who sees the current status quo, where her family’s patriarch has been the head of Lebanon’s parliament for more than 24 years, as a status quo she would very much love to maintain.
So while “reporting” from the protests, Nawal Berri had slogans targeted against Nabih Berri, the patriarch and speaker of parliament in question, leading her to decide that she couldn’t cover the protests anymore saying: “Since they have no respect, I won’t be covering this anymore, and they call themselves a civil movement. Thanks.”
The chants that upset her had said: “The head of the family starved us; he robbed us; he’s a thief.”
She then proceeded to leave the camera’s frame before taking it to her Facebook page where she had the following masterpiece to provide the Lebanese population with:
“What happened is something silly. I got around 20 individuals without manners or culture berate me about “the head of my family” being a thief. So of course I decided that giving their airtime was too much for them. What is this civil movement that knows nothing about segregating journalism from personal issues.”
When one of the protestors approached her to say that the chants don’t represent the movement, her reply was: “I will bury anyone who talks about the head of my family. He is the crown on their heads.”
I’m not a reporter nor am I a journalist. But I am under the understanding, Ms. Berri, that those in the civil movement are not exactly supported to segregate journalism from personal issues. The person who is supposed to do so is you, and you’ve utterly and irrevocably failed.
Reporting from the scene of the protest, your job is not to editorialize, it is to carry over the information as it is occurring for the viewer, such as myself, to be exposed to the most information possible in order for me to formulate an opinion. It is my right not to have you censor the information that I can receive, whether positive or negative, just because you were personally offended. Your feelings have no bearing on a national issue. You are not covering your family’s newsletter, you are covering a Lebanese protest.
It is clear that Nawal Berri’s priorities are not to do her job, but to keep her feelings intact. If she’s this upset by a chant, then how am I supposed to trust her in reporting bigger, possibly more controversial issues that may arise later on in her career? Clearly we can’t, but she has the biggest of wastas so no one cares. No one else would have dared to do what she did on air. Let her check her privilege.
Was chanting against Berri in front of Nawal Berri the most mature move by the YouStink protestors? Probably not. We need to rise above her pettiness to show her that the narrow-mindedness she is exhibiting only exists in the confines of those who are too insecure to deal with it. But that doesn’t matter, because those protestors were silenced anyway, regardless of what kind of image they were portraying.
MTV, you have an obligation towards your viewers to make sure such things never happen again. Until then, provide your most sensitive reporters with the best anxiolytics around.