Paul Berton: The story of the teenagers trapped in a watery cave in Thailand is not just harrowing — it is made for TV.
The boys were not yet out of danger, one rescuer had already perished, and already, I'm sure, magazine articles were underway, books being written, movie rights being negotiated.
And yet, you can almost hear a Hollywood screenwriter say, "maybe we could throw in some mysterious creature with glowing green eyes lurking in the shallows?"
But the story so far is still in the purview of journalists, thank goodness. Some are no doubt sensationalizing it (as if that was needed), but most recognize it for what it is: A story of human tragedy and potential triumph where the stakes are high and the outcome uncertain.
A story of human survival and heroism, of a community coming together, of a daring rescue.
And as with so many others, a story to put our own lives in perspective.
While sitting in Toronto traffic this week for three hours, I counted myself lucky: "At least I'm not in that cave."
For me, that is one of the great side benefits of learning about the world through journalism. It makes our daily miseries and trials pale in comparison to those faced by others around the globe, whether they are ravaged by war in Syria, unjustly imprisoned in Russia, victims of violence in Honduras or starving in South Sudan.
Poverty, inequity, injustice and violence persist here, of course, and we must work to alleviate them, but there is almost always someone somewhere else in straits more dire.
And while it is that perspective that makes me appreciate journalism, and life itself, it is not really the reason we do this.
What journalism — all of it — should do is make us get up and "do something about it," whether it's bad decision-making, rampant corruption, poor management, bureaucratic overspending (or underspending), environmental destruction, improvements to education or health ...
Sure, good journalism connects us to our communities, both our neighbours next door and our neighbours around the world. Good journalism should give us the information we need to navigate our lives, improve ourselves, our families and friends.
But above all, journalism should prod us to improve our communities, whether it's our neighbourhood, our city, our country or the world at large — and provide a map for doing so.
Simply by helping people become more informed, it is usually doing just that.
Most of us couldn't really help those boys in the cave this week, except maybe pray and hope for the best. But we can help others closer to us, and we can do it relatively easily.
We can be better informed. We can listen honestly to all sides of an argument. We can be more aware of issues and happenings around us. We can look to the future. We can get involved. We can volunteer. We can vote.
Look carefully and you'll see beyond the noise and the paparazzi and the sound bites. That's what good journalism is all about.
Paul Berton is editor-in-chief of The Hamilton Spectator and thespec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or [email protected]
Source: The Spec