When News Becomes the TragedyPosted: August 27, 2015
In a former life I worked as a TV news reporter. It was my dream job! I say that because when I was an eight year old little girl, I decided that I wanted to be a journalist. It’s a pretty big word for a second-grader, but…I liked big words! My focus was so intense that while many of my peers played “house” and Barbies, I often cajoled family and friends into playing “TV News Station” in my basement. It was my favorite game 🙂
While most kids outgrow or revamp their ideal job, mine never really wavered. One of my most treasured memories growing up was getting to visit a “real” TV news station. In the small, southwestern Kansas town where I lived we were lucky enough to have a news bureau. A small building way out in the country with a giant antenna, a few offices and an actual news studio. I got to see how the news was produced, watch the anchor/reporter get ready for live reports, check out the teleprompter and they even let me sit at the news desk. I loved every minute! Those outings only furthered my desire to make it in the news business.
A self-avowed news junkie, I often surprised teachers with my knowledge of current events. Even at a young age, I gobbled up newspapers and watched the national nightly news (sidebar, Tom Brokaw was my secret crush!) Throughout high school I wrote for the newspaper and took courses in broadcasting. After graduation, declaring a major was a no-brainer. I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed pursuing this passion in college. The university I attended offered so many wonderful hands-on opportunities in broadcasting. I learned about both the radio and television side of the news from wonderful professors who I adore to this day. I never really considered it work, it was all just incredibly challenging, invigorating and oh so much FUN! So when I landed my first internship and later my first job in the industry, I felt like I had won the lottery. Listen up, kids…dreams do come true!
So why am I writing about this now? I left the business many years ago and I haven’t set foot in a newsroom in over a decade, but when I heard about the tragedy in Virginia yesterday it really hit me–hard…and in a way that I wasn’t expecting. While making bag lunches for my kiddos to take to school, I stood there in disbelief, my heart immediately aching for the families and friends of those involved. As more information was shared throughout the day, my disbelief continued. Look, I told you that I’m a devout news junkie (almost to a fault) and we know that for the most part the news is TRAGIC…daily and tragic. So why was I so stunned?
It wasn’t until later that evening when my daughter and I went to pick up my son from church youth group that my personal grief came into focus. She asked me, “Mom, when you worked in news was it scary? Did you ever think someone would kill you?” I told her that I loved working as a reporter, that it was exciting and rewarding. There were so many parts of the business that I truly loved…especially the people I worked with. I shared with her that while I had covered stories in some questionable and unfamiliar places that at no point was I ever fearful. No sooner had I uttered those words did I realize that this was the source of my heavy heart. Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were doing their jobs that morning. A live shot for a story about tourism. Look, it doesn’t get anymore benign than that in the news industry. They were young, energetic, had their whole lives ahead of them and they never, EVER saw it coming. And while I can’t relate with most tragedies that make the news, I could relate to this one. I had been there before…making small talk before the shoot, holding a microphone, adjusting my outfit one more time before the cameraman gave his cue.
I don’t want to believe that this is the world we live in, but I’m not naïve. We will probably hear a lot more about this story because (in case you didn’t know) news people take care of their own. As we watch an entire industry come to grips with such a graphic example of workplace violence, we will no doubt hear new details about all of the events leading up to this tragedy. These details will be magnified, politicized, examined, and theorized… all in the next few days. An outsider might chalk this up to just another disgruntled employee seeking some sort of revenge and move on, but for those inside the news business there will be many, many questions. And likely, no good answers.
Yesterday reminded me of the many wonderful people I worked with waaaaaaay back in the day. I want you to know that I saw your posts on social media and I recall the early mornings together, leaving work in the wee hours of the night, being called in at ridiculously, horrible hours in the a.m., covering good news stories, and retelling tragedies. But what I remember most was the family like atmosphere that truly exists at news stations across the country. We spent countless weekends together, numerous holidays and essentially some pretty big and meaningful days of our lives with one another. My heart goes out to those who mourn the loss of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward whose lives were struck down so tragically as they only intended to report the news and not be the news on that fateful morning. If I’ve learned anything in the business, it’s that most of us started out with a pretty big dream and that those who choose this profession do so hoping to change the world (for the better.)
And I believe that good journalism, good television, can make our world a better place. Christiane Amanpour