Tuesday, January 13, 2009

You Gotta Ask

There is a scene in the "Scrubs" pilot that I think of quite often. One of JD's first patients, Mr. Bursky, dies. JD doesn't have the heart to ask the family for permission to perform an autopsy. JD approaches Chief of Medicine Dr. Bob Kelso for a pass, just this once. Dr. Kelso replies "This is a teaching hospital son, you gotta ask."

You gotta ask.

I had another "JD moment" yesterday. I was doing a follow up story in Ashland, where Snyder's Family Restaurant and an apartment were destroyed by fire. One of the restaurant owners was there. So were the apartment tenants. I swallowed hard and asked for interviews. There is always a good story to tell, and talking with the people directly affected is solid journalism-- a key element of the report.

You'd be surprised at how often people who've gone through horrible things want to talk. Maybe they view discussing what happened as therapeutic. Many want to thank the fire department, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and everyone else who helped. If it's a business, they want to tell their customers they'll be back. I'm okay with that. Everyone, except the fire chief and a neighbor, I approached for interviews yesterday turned me down. I'm okay with that, too.

I look at it like this. I still have to get up every morning and look at myself in the mirror. I ask nicely, with the photographer a reasonable distance away. If a fire victim declines, I thank them for their time, express my concern for their plight, and walk away. Thrust a camera and microphone in the face of a victim? Not my style.

But still, you gotta ask.