by | Feb 4, 2001 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

This Tuesday, “Good Morning America” will offer you something different with your coffee. You can watch a baby being born.

The ABC morning show will have camera crews live at three hospitals — in Dallas, Houston and Boston — in hopes of capturing the most amazing human event of all.

The prospective parents will have signed release forms. Doctors, too. As far as we know, no labor will be induced so that the baby arrives before a commercial break.

Then again, it is TV.

“We are hoping to capture the miracle of childbirth,” the show’s producer told me last week.

Critics suggest childbirth is only truly miraculous during sweeps months like February.

But never mind that. And never mind that the gooey, graphic sight of babies coming from the womb may not go well with eating your Cheerios.

What concerns me is the big picture. And that it keeps getting bigger and bigger.

A history of photography

Aren’t there cameras everywhere? Once upon a time, only the most special occasions were captured on film. People planned, dressed and posed for a portrait. The flash went off, and they relaxed. It was a process. Not real. Not candid. Not ordinary.

Nowadays, we photocopy our rear ends on the copy machine. We film everything. We film birthdays. We film blowing out candles. We film opening presents. We film opening the present of the new movie camera.

How often do you see people pointing video recorders at each another and the conversation goes like this?

“Say something.”

“What should I say?”

“I don’t know. Say, ‘Hi.’ “

“OK. Hi.”


“Turn it off, OK?”


Not exactly a Kodak moment, is it? But we still don’t turn it off. We have cameras everywhere. Most of the time, we’ll never watch the film. But we keep on rolling. The surge in reality TV should tell you something: What’s real about life in front of a camera?

Nothing. Yet we call it reality. And the more we keep filming ourselves — filming our funniest videos, filming when animals attack us, filming ourselves making love, filming couples on a tropical island trying to seduce one another
— the more the lens becomes reality, the more the real world becomes a dress rehearsal.

Stealing life’s joys

Now, I do some work in television. I try to act natural in front of the cameras. But I am always aware when they are on and off.

And in my private life, I don’t like being filmed. I don’t enjoy when a special moment happens — a party, a toast, a ceremony — and I look around and see my friends’ and loved ones’ faces covered with video cameras.

Sure, I love looking at photos years later, but there’s something lost for every moment snapped. It’s the ability to be in the present. To absorb the experience. To commit to the greatest camera of all: the memory. Not just the picture. The feeling.

There were tribes not so long ago who threatened violence if you took their picture. They felt you were stealing a piece of their soul.

I can understand the sentiment. So I am less astounded by ABC’s desire to use childbirth for its morning programming than I am by the about-to-be parents allowing these cameras in.

Why isn’t their reaction: “Sorry, but this is the most special and private moment my husband and I can share. We don’t want to have to duck around a cameraman.”

Why isn’t their reaction: “If it’s so important to you, why don’t you film your own and put it on TV?”

Instead, there are many couples willing to go live. Why? Is it because, in our fascination with ourselves, we have become that weather girl Nicole Kidman played in the film “To Die For,” who cooed, “What’s the point of doing anything if it’s not on TV?”

How sad. In storming the delivery rooms Tuesday, ABC is trying to do what Kodak and others have been selling for years: capture the moment. But that’s an advertising slogan.

The truth is, you can never capture a moment. But if you’re not careful, you can give it away.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or Catch “Albom in the Afternoon” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760) and simulcast on MSNBC 3-5 p.m.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

Subscribe for bonus content and giveaways!