Hurricane Harvey: Stop Bombarding Victims

In recent months, it seems as though there has been one tragedy after another. I've been avoiding the news, purposely distracting myself in whichever ways I could, because I knew for a fact it would overwhelm me. But recently I came across something I couldn't ignore. I watched a clip from an on-site interview with Danielle, a victim of Hurricane Harvey, with CNN reporter Rosa Flores in Houston.

Danielle and her children had just arrived at the shelter when CNN was reporting. She looked physically exhausted and emotionally drained. In the interview, the reporter asked her how she was rescued. Danielle divulged that she had been in a home waiting for the police for 36 hours and they never came. They had been there for five days with no food and no electricity. When she spoke, the sheer amount of trauma she had endured was apparent. Her voice sounded shaky like she was holding back tears. I was so quiet while watching the video. It's like I sunk into this moment and tried to understand what she was going through as hard as I could. But I couldn'tno one could. I knew that and it seemed like Danielle did, too. 

Throughout the interview, Danielle was frustrated with the questions and the angle the reporter attempted to utilize. The reporter continued bluntly: “Now you're with your children. We've heard stories of mothers trying to save their children from rushing waters. Can you tell us [what that was like]?” 

Danielle responded, “We walked through four feet of water to get them food on the first day—yeah, that’s a lot of sh**. But y’all sit here, y’all try and interview people at their worst times, that’s not the smartest thing to do. Like, people are really breaking down and y’all are sitting here with cameras and microphones trying to ask us what the f*ck is wrong with us.”

The reporter apologized immediately and shortly after, the host of the interview back at CNN decided to go on break and end the segment. 

Danielle's words were filled with so much passion, anger, and frustration. The clip is powerful because her message is so relevant. She addressed something in the media that's been happening for ages. Bombarding people who are enduring their worst times and asking them empty, angled questions for the sole purpose of “good TV” is inherently damaging and counterproductive. This topic needs to be revisited more and conversation needs to be created so we can find ways to avoid emotionally disturbing victims of tragedy more than they have been already.

By Patrick Thompson


  1. Journalists use angled questions to get an answer that caters to what they're looking for. This doesn't just apply to these "empty, angled questions" you're referencing, but this is also how journalists get quotes that propel a story. Nobody forced this woman to be on camera (at least, I hope not), so I believe the main contention is that she either was aggravated with the reporter herself, or it stemmed from somewhere else.

    These "empty, angled questions" supply an answer that connects an event to a person - suddenly the public is interested, compelled to act and donate to victims. And yeah, maybe there's a better way to go around it, but getting those stories on national television is what sparks conversation. Grassroots movements are good for sparking conversation, but not when the situation is dire, and you need help within the next few hours. What works? The press. A good, provoking story.

    Maybe it's sold as good television, but that's what big name publications do. They run like businesses, but not all press is bad. Student journalists are uncovering stories. Independent field journalists are discovering big scoops. Event journalism is going to ask for your opinion and your story, of course it's going to be angled, but that's their job. They're reporting.

    Otherwise there is no story, and there is nothing else but facts. Hurricane Harvey ripped through Texas. Here are the numbers. Without these questions there is no feeling, and then there is no desire to want to help.

    How different is it to look at the numbers of deaths in a war as opposed to reading first hand accounts? It's the same.

    We should try not to harm victims with these questions, but if the reporter asked a question so obviously repetitive and angled, wouldn't interviewees know that walking into the interview?

  2. Hi im the writer of this article ! Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and forming such a well rounded opinion. I agree and disagree with some of the things you stated but I just wanted to thank you for creating constructive conversation like this it means alot!