Over the years, I’ve lost count of how many times in a newsroom when I had to strike the word “hero” from a story.
Sometimes there would be intense resistance from news managers.
They would argue:
The word hero … “sells” the story better.
Calling someone a “hero” makes them special.
On that point, I agree.
Let’s review some examples of these stories :
A father walks into the backyard and finds a neighbor’s child drowning in the pool. The father pulls the child to safety and even administers CPR until help arrives.
A 5 year old hears her mother calling for help and calls 911. Mom was having a heart attack but is saved.
A boy is walking past a vacant lot and hears some muffled sounds. He finds a couple of puppies tied up in a bag. They were saved from suffocating.
Now all of those are great news stories, but there is not one true “hero” in any of them.
You also don’t need the word “hero” to “sell” either story.
So why am I rejecting calling anyone a hero?
They did nothing that put their own lives at risk.
They did save lives, but at no point where they in jeopardy.
When I was a child I had several heroes:
All of them deserve praise and admiration and would become legends, but in the final analysis … two were actors; two were baseball players.
Audie Murphy was the only true hero.
He was born the son of a Texas sharecropper and became the most decorated soldier of
In just one of his heroic actions, he stood on a burning tank destroyer firing a machine gun at advancing troops and tanks. He ran out of ammunition, grabbed his rifle, refused medical attention and led his troops in a counter charge.
Murphy was a true hero.
The current movie “Lone Survivor” is about true heroes.
In my mind, everyone who wears our countries uniform, wears a badge, works in fire or EMS units is a hero … just because they put themselves between us and enemies or danger.
Still, I would argue against calling them a hero in a news story .. unless in a specific instance, they put their lives in clear and present danger.
I do not want the term “hero” diminished by news stories that elevate a good deed … even a life saving deed.
The word “hero” should be reserved for legitimate cases … not just to enhance a news story.
Besides in the end, most who are true heroes … don’t like being called a hero.