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A Little Emotion

William Hurt in "Broadcast News."
William Hurt in "Broadcast News."

Okay, if you haven't seen the 1987 movie "Broadcast News" and don't want me to spoil it, stop here. Producer Holly Hunter falls in love with reporter William Hurt. During an especially emotional interview in one of Hurt's pieces, the camera cuts away to show him shedding a tear. Problem is (as Hunter later finds out) Hurt shot the interview with a one-camera setup -- meaning there was no recording of his face during the interview and the tear was staged. DRAMATIC DEVELOPMENT!

It was that fictional and completely inappropriate moment of on-air emotion that popped into my mind the other day after hearing a StoryCorps interview that ran during Morning Edition.

The piece consisted of a conversation between an intellectually disabled woman and her teenaged daughter. The story was unbelievably moving. After the interview, host Steve Inskeep was audibly choked up as he read the conclusion to the piece. Since Morning Edition originates on the East Coast, the version I heard just before 8:30 was taped, but the producers left his reaction in.

I was glad they did. (And not just because I had a lump in my throat, too.)

Emotion can be wrong for journalists to express, no doubt about it. In recorded pieces, getting too worked up isn’t terribly professional, and would likely not ring true. But I don’t think we should restrict ourselves to be news robots who are afraid to show a little humanity.

Just don't fake it, or Holly Hunter will break up with you.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.