Tip of the Week | Be human, have compassion, think beyond yourself

Mike Rose is the chief photojournalist for WTVF in Nashville, TN

Be human, have compassion, think beyond yourself

Written by Mike Rose


These are the kind of stories that I love. (see below) I was thrilled the desk picked me. There was a huge mass of bees swarming a South Nashville neighborhood. I arrived on the scene and while cocooned in the relative security of my news car, I donned a rain suit and tucked everything in. I even put on a pair of gloves and gaffed my sleeves to them. Finally, I tightened the hood of my jacket around my face and put a large pair of aviator sunglasses on. It was a sunny 90 degrees outside and I looked like a gaffer taped, rubber suit wearing jack ass.

The tree trimmer guys that unleashed the fury with a bad cut were scrambling around, cussing and dodging the flying darts. We all looked like fools…swatting and running and dodging. What a joke.

But then Ibrahim Talafhal showed up. He is a bee keeper transplant from Egypt. His demeanor and accent could not have provided a better contrast to our foolish fumbling. He was calm and direct. He didn’t gear up. No mask. No long sleeves. No gaffer tape. He simply walked up to the hive and surveyed the damage…not without a well-placed wireless mic though.

While I was placing a mic on Ibrahim, he told me to calm down. “Bees are becoming defensive because of the way you and others are acting”. He says this to me as a bee bounced off the hood of my jacket, next to my ear. Thwap! Bzzzzzzzz.

He was right and his advice was so transcending. How many times do we as journalists show up at a scene and tape ourselves up in defense…mentally, emotionally. The bees know when we do. They can sense it. I can’t emphasize enough the need to be human and vulnerable, just like everyone else.

While working a big trial all last week, photographers covering the court house decided to back off Lindsey Lowe and her family. Lindsey smothered her twin baby boys just seconds after they were born…in the bath room of her parents’ house. No one knew that she was pregnant until her parents found the dead newborns in a laundry basket.

Lindsey walked with her family in and out of the court house every day. Many times she was holding hands with her mother. They cried and hugged. I watched…without my camera. A lot of news directors would fire me for that. Lindsey’s grandparents sat right behind the court room pool camera and we talked a good bit. She thanked us for being respectful. She thanked us for not showing the graphic autopsy pictures. She thanked us for giving them space.

We broadcast and streamed the trial gavel to gavel. My reporter Adam Ghassemi tweeted every detail. The ratings were huge. Our coverage was professional. On the seventh day, the jury deliberated only 2 hours and convicted Lindsey of Murder in the 1st degree. She will spend the rest of her life in prison. She is only 26. When the family left the court room…the first time without their daughter…they did not stop and talk to the press. With my camera, I stood in one spot and let them walk by. I didn’t speak. I didn’t ask how it feels. I didn’t chase them to the car. What were they going to say really?

So back to the Hive. Ibrahim carefully picked through the combs with bare hands and bare face. He was with the bees and they accepted him. I rolled on everything…from a short distance. He liked to tease the tree cutters and I believe that he could relate to them. I slowly unwrapped…partly because of the heat, and partly because I trusted Ibrahim. When a bee bounced between my glasses and eyeball I stayed calm and the bee went on with out incident. Ibrahim was right. Eventually, I ditched the hood, glasses and gloves. I felt less distracted and more in the moment. I hope it came out in the story.

We never got an interview with the Lowe family and I’m OK with that. But on the long drive home, I asked myself a lot of questions. How did my actions that week impact others? How have my actions that week made our society a better place? Does Mr. and Mrs. Lowe know that my (and everyone is the press room) heart aches for them?

Ibrahim didn’t spay pesticides to exterminate the bee hive. He used his human hands and human mind to address the issue before him. He was able to relate, and I admire him for that.

So my tip of the week boils down to this: be human, have compassion, think beyond yourself and you might not get stung.

Have a great week.