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A reporter who makes us proud of our profession

 

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La s t ye a r, Dr. Sanjay Gupta was considered the leading candidate to become surgeon general of the United States. President Barack Obama was going to name Gupta, news reports stated, because he was so knowledgeable of the health care i s s u e s f a c i n g Americans and because he could so eloquently state his case before the American people. Gupta i s CNN' s medical correspondent and practices surgery on the side. He has been the host of several special programs on the medical and health issues. In the end, Gupta decided against taking the position. He traded in the title of surgeon general for the title of doctor. And for a title I, with my own bias, believe is just as esteemed: reporter. Had Gupta accepted the surgeon general's post, he would now be in the high- s o c i e ty c i rc l e s o f Washington, attending the best parties, dressed in the finest attire, speaking to medical conventions and issuing press releases on the importance of getting swine flu shots. That's hardly the lifestyle Gupta has lived for the last month. On Jan. 12, he got a call similar to one most of us reporters have gotten at one time or another. It was from a gruff editor. He was told something along t h e l i n e s o f : "There's been a terrible earthquake in Haiti. Get your butt on the next airplane to c ove r i t . Go d knows when you will be back." The life Gupta has lived since then is hardly that of a Washington insider. He has worn a dirty T-shirt and ripped blue jeans. He has worked 20-hour days. He has wondered through the rubble-strewn streets of Port-au-Prince, sleeping on the front lawn of his hotel for fear of aftershocks. He even performed surgery on a young earthquake victim in a makeshift tent when no other doctors could be found. Gupta hasn't relied on handouts from the Haitian government to tell the world of the horrors that are taking place in Port-au-Prince. He has traveled through the devastation, talking to victims, rescuers and overwhelmed medical personnel. He interviewed parents unable to find their children. He told the story of children unable to find their parents. He has described the indescribable stench in the ruined city. He has given the world a close, up-front account of an earthquake that has killed 230,000 people — more than a quarter of the population of Montana. He has told the world how awful it is to see the dead bodies of young children stacked up like cordwood. He is an important part of the coverage that prompted the most massive outpouring of American donations to any international natural disaster in history. Millions of dollars have been donated to help restore hope in Haiti. He does what reporters are supposed to do. He prompts us to take action, to feel sorrow, to cry, to donate. I'm sure the surgeon general provides invaluable service to our country, but I must admit I don't have the faintest idea who the surgeon general is. The world is better off because Sanjay Gupta decided to continue as a reporter. Again, from my very biased perspective, a good reporter is invaluable. Gupta's Haiti reporting makes us proud of our profession. The work we do at the Havre Daily News may not have the dayto- day impact that Sanjay Gupta's work did. But we hope we can perform it with the same degree of passion and integrity. As we tell the story of Havre and the Hi-Line every day, we hope we can tell it with the same clarity and professionalism. We sometimes fail, but we will always try to live up to the standards. (John Kelleher is managing editor of the Havre Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] Com, 265-6795, ext. 17, or 390- 0798.)

 

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