By KRISTEN GOLEMBIEWSKI, Opinions Editor
This semester, I had an internship at a local television station. While I learned many great things there, the most important lesson I learned came from riding along with photographers when they covered a particularly painful event – a missing child or a fatal house fire, for example. That lesson was to never lose my humanity when reporting on a news story. To always treat victims of a tragedy with respect and compassion. To give them space, to leave them alone when asked, and to never exploit a visibly upset person just so you can win an award for your coverage.
With Friday’s shooting in Connecticut, I saw the worst of what the media could be. Instead of giving people their space, these reporters were ruthless as they photographed children and parents bawling in the aftermath.
These reporters should never have been that close to the school. Lest we forget, these students were likely between the ages of 5 and 11. When I was their age, I think my biggest problem was learning all of the state capitals. I don’t even know how I would have processed my classmates, my friends, being shot at school, a place that is intended to be safe.
And I certainly would not have been interested in describing the sounds I heard as I sat in class, as many of these interviewees were asked to do. I most likely would have told the reporter questioning me to go away.
Of course, I have never been in a comparable position. But unlike the anchors and reporters casually discussing the day’s events, I can empathize with these children.
When I went on one ride-along at my internship, the photographer I was with explained that the news business can destroy a person’s soul, their very humanity. She explained that there were reporters – even at our very station – that would do anything if it meant their footage would earn them some recognition. She warned me that if I ever got to that point, that I needed to take a good, hard look at my life. That I needed to understand that I was a person first, and a journalist second.
And that is the advice I have for those who tactlessly covered the Connecticut shooting. I respect their need to have the best coverage. I understand the concept of ratings and the need to be the “best.” And when it comes to national, 24-hour networks, I get that they’ve gotta fill the time somehow.
But there is no reason that this shooting could not have been covered with more compassion and fewer images of bawling families. It is honestly sad to see that many news networks are so concerned with getting footage of shell-shocked children so they can have the best coverage and not at all sympathetic to what these children witnessed.