I have absolutely nothing but respect for every single journalist who has been covering the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. recently.
I have never had to cover something like that. And, I really hope I never have to. The hardest story I ever wrote was about a friend and colleague who was arrested. And that took a lot out of me. Covering a mass shooting, even not being connected to any of the victims, would be far worse.
From what I’ve seen so far, the majority of reporters and editors are handling this situation with professionalism and respect. I can only imagine the toll it has taken on the victims, witness, police, journalists, etc. Having to be the person probing into the lives of survivors or family of the deceased is something nobody is prepared to do, regardless of how many years you have been a reporter.
Ironically, as I was in the process of writing this post, I came across a Poynter. post about how journalists can deal with the trauma of events they’ve covered. The story mentions support groups, talking with fellow reporters on the scene (competition or not) and a few other ideas.
The biggest help I can see is talking to other journalists. Nobody is going to understand what you’re going through quite like another journalist will. There’s a mutual understanding and respect, even if unspoken, that exists. This isn’t to take away from the hurt and trauma experienced by survivors, witnesses, etc., but it’s a different version of trauma (though similar to officers, I’d suspect).
Journalists have to get all the details, whether they want to know them or not. And in most cases, those horrific details will stick with you. I can’t imagine how I would process something of that nature. And getting those details while remaining aware of the effect your coverage will have not only on those directly affected by the tragedy, but readers as well, should be commended.
For those who are currently covering the theater shooting, or anyone who has been on the front lines of tragic events, I will always have the utmost respect for what you do. Because, honestly, I don’t know that I could do it with as much poise and grace as I’ve seen from the majority of reporters with this theater shooting.
*Blogger’s note: I know this post is kind of all over the place, but I needed an outlet to explain this where I didn’t have to organize all my thoughts in the perfect structure.