The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

A heartbreaking moment

Ulrich Wickert, a well-known German anchorman, who is now in his 80s often explained that he was working on sharing news showing the least possible emotions. However, he wasn’t appearing as an emotionless person or lacking empathy. He simply assumed two things. Most importantly he knew that the pictures they would be showing would generate emotions and that he didn’t need to add to them. The other assumption he made was, that by sharing facts and a critical perspective, he would help his audience deal with their emotions.

Watching the news over the last years, this has become rarer. Quite often, I’m now hearing journalists providing the news by adding emotional descriptions as if the audience would need support in becoming aware of the right emotion to have or to know what they feel.

One could argue that it is how they show empathy. But this is questionable as their audience is way too large and diverse to be able to empathize with all of them. The alternative could be, that they empathize with the people affected by the event, but I would argue, that this is not the role of an anchorman.

What they do is project their emotions into their audience.

As Wickert once explained, his approach is guided by Immanuel Kant and how he explained Enlightenment. For Kant, it is “man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity (Unmündigkeit).” In an essay, Kant described that it is the lack of courage that leads people to avoid using reason, intellect, and wisdom without the guidance of another.

Establishing his role as an anchorman, Wickert had seen himself as someone in a position that is easily used to receive guidance. And he decided to pay attention to it. He aimed to help people react to the situation they are in when seeing the news. It is a situation in which pictures and events inevitably lead to experiencing emotions. But, once people experience emotions, they are in a state in which reason has to compete for the available energy with these emotions. Wickert saw his task as one of taking the time to allow people to connect with the situation and receive the facts of the situation in the most understandable way possible. This was his way of assisting people deal with the situation they found themselves in when emotions appeared because of the news they were seeing.

He embedded his task in the way he wanted to serve the audience. Listening to such news today has become more energy-consuming. At its best I’ve only to let go of the emotions news anchormen are projecting at me to then dissect the facts in the information they are sharing.

Instead of providing guidance, it is directing thinking.

Maybe, because this has become the preferred way of an audience now overwhelmed by emotion.


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