Friday, April 29, 2011

Dealing with Death

I had no doubt when I entered the local news business that I would end up reporting on a death. And that scared me.

Many people believe in the stereotypical journalist who, in search of the most gripping story and best ratings, tracks down friends and family and prods them with questions into crying for the money shot.

For me, and for many of my friends who find themselves in the same position, this isn't true. We just want to tell stories. We feel the responsibility of being the eyes and ears of our viewers.

A few weeks ago, a car accident killed an 18-year-old who was riding in the back of a pickup truck. He was with buddies and they were camping at a nearby lake on Spring Break.

The next day I was assigned the story of finding out if the school was going to be doing anything-- holding a memorial service, bringing grief counselors on campus, helping the family. I talked with Eagle Point HS Assistant Principal, Tim Rupp. He gave me a great interview and talked about the student, Andrew Roberts.

Eventually, we found out that Andrew's father is a teacher at Eagle Point High School.

I kept in contact with Mr. Rupp and used him as a gateway to the school, friends, and parents.

Because I kept a respectful distance and honoring the family's wishes, Andrew's dad was gracious enough to allow me to attend the school-wide memorial and he gave me an interview.

In my eyes, this is one of the most important stories I've told at NewsWatch 12.

Mr. Roberts says some of the other stations didn't respect the family or the situation so the story was exclusive. Our station wanted to pump up the fact that it was an exclusive, which felt weird to me. Here we are turning this sad, grief-filled situation and branding it "exclusive" so as to promote ourselves.

As unnatural as it may have seemed to me, Mr. Roberts sent an email to my bosses that honored my work. I'm very proud of that.

I treated them without changing any difference between my reporter self and my personal self. I'm also proud of that.

I see myself as a storyteller and I try to gauge my work by how my subjects feel about the way I report. Mr. and Mrs. Roberts' email was a confirmation, to me, that I'm on the right track.

1 comment:

  1. What a touching note the Roberts sent to your boss. You should be proud that in a world filled with reporters and journalists that get the story at any cost, they appreciated your compassion, respect and humanity. We need more like you!