Anyone With a Heart Would Do Exactly What Krishnan Guru-Murthy Did

10/09/2015 17:39 BST | Updated 10/09/2016 10:12 BST

Channel 4's Krishnan Guru-Murthy stopped reporting on the refugee crisis this week, and actually got involved to help. And I'm so glad he did.

In a moving clip, he stopped watching a group of refugees climbing off a boat - many panicked and screaming - and helped to carry children from the sea.

It's a moment of real feeling when Guru-Murthy's voice breaks and he exclaims "Oh my God" when a child falls onto the rocks beneath him.

That moment is a world apart from his measured opening to the clip - his voiceover told the story, but his shocked reaction is him living it.

The argument made by one commenter on the Channel 4 News Facebook page, that "Krishnan needs to remember that he is a journalist and stop his personal crusade" is rubbish.

Channel 4 has past form on journalists revealing their personal feelings for the news they cover.

Last year, Jon Snow's emotional report about the Gaza conflict ended with a personal appeal to viewers to help. Channel 4 News defended the online piece (which could well have broken Ofcom's impartiality rules had it been shown on TV) saying that Snow was "deeply affected by what he saw first-hand".

The broadcaster added that it was "extremely proud of the work our reporting teams have done and continue to do in very challenging conditions to cover this conflict." Hear hear.

A journalist's job is to observe and tell stories - to bear witness. But if a child falls over in front of you, anyone with half an ounce of kindness is not going to just stand there and keep filming.

And in more extreme situations, things often go much further.

Take photographer Nick Ut. He took the picture of a nine-year-old girl running naked and screaming along a road in Vietnam in 1972, which alerted the world to the effects of horrific napalm attacks.

That photo alone changed the world, but after taking it, Ut took the girl Kim Phúc, to hospital in Saigon. How could he not?

vietnam girl napalm

In 1993, photojournalist Kevin Carter travelled to southern Sudan. He spent 20 minutes watching a vulture that was waiting for an emaciated toddler nearby to die.

Carter wanted the bird to spread its wings so he could take a more powerful picture, but didn't help the child (some reports say soldiers nearby wouldn't have let him if he tried to).

vulture girl sudan

After getting the shot that became iconic of the famine ravaging Africa, Carter was accused of being heartless and detached for not helping the tiny girl.

But he wasn't. "I'm really, really sorry I didn't pick the child up," he reportedly told a friend. Unable to process the horrors he had seen, he took his own life three months after winning a Pulitzer prize for the picture.

We're a hardened bunch, journalists. We have to be - you can't write about killings, injustice and inequality (which we do even from the office, believe it or not) and be reduced to tears every five minutes. But there are points when being detached is no longer right.

Last night I went to the premiere of the new Greenpeace documentary, How To Change The World. Greenpeace's founder Bob Hunter was a Canadian hippy journalist, writing in the Vancouver Sun about the brand new movement called ecology.

He soon felt he had to quit his column, realising that he couldn't just be an observer.

And he certainly took action - he had already sailed on a perilous voyage to try to enter the blast area of a nuclear bomb test in Alaska, and went on to arrange for his colleagues to position themselves between a whale and the harpoon gun of a huge Soviet whaling vessel.

Though he dropped journalism for his main campaigning years, Hunter - who died in 2005 - never lost his sense of a good story. He was obsessed with launching what he called 'media mind bombs', the equivalent of what we call going viral today.

Though Guru-Murthy helping a child or two is hardly activism for world peace, at least he did something. And not every journalist has the choice to step in.

Last month, Turkish photographer Nilufer Demir was crossing a beach in Bodrum, Turkey, and came across a child she wasn't able to help.

Three-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi lay dead on the shore.

As Demir told CNN's Turkish sister TV channel: "There was nothing left to do for him. There was nothing left to bring him back to life. There was nothing to do except take his photograph ... and that is exactly what I did.

"I thought, 'This is the only way I can express the scream of his silent body.'"

And, though it wasn't what she would have wanted, I'm glad she did everything she could.