One of the hazards of being a journalist
A comment from an area teacher caught my attention while I was covering the “Honeycrisp for Harberts” fundraiser at Friday night’s football game in Blooming Prairie and jarred some raw emotions for me.
As we chatted about the tragedy involving a Dodge Center family that has marred the opening of the school year for students, teachers, parents and so many more, she surmised that covering a tragedy like this must be difficult for us as journalists. She hit it right on the head. It’s the first time I’ve had someone recognize this in all of my years as a journalist.
Covering tragic news is never easy. While it’s a necessity as people depend on us for reliable information, tragedies are by far the worst part of our job, especially when it involves young children. We never like to do these tough stories, but a part of our role is to lead the community through its grief and into healing.
I have found that nothing can ever prepare one for covering tragedies. We are forced to set aside our emotions to try and get the important information that everyone wants to know. It’s not easy, especially when people are likely facing the worst time of their lives.
As hard as we try to be sensitive and responsible, it seems like someone is always going to be upset with us. We know that comes as part of the job, but it still doesn’t make things any easier.
Personally, I have experienced a double whammy of dealing with tragedy. Besides my current role as a journalist, I was a police officer for many years. As an officer, I handled tragic situations more times than I care to remember. I often experience flashbacks of the tragedies I’ve dealt with—murders, suicides, accidental mishaps and the most common, vehicle crashes.
One sticks out the most for me. It’s eerily similar to the most recent Harberts’ tragedy. In fact, my mind went right back to a crash of a 16-year-old girl nearly five years ago after I heard about the horrifying crash along U.S. Highway 14 outside of Claremont two weeks ago.
On Dec. 4, 2013, I responded to a vehicle crash that claimed the life of my son’s best friend who was innocently on her way to school. She never made it, crashing into an on-coming vehicle just a mile from the school. In addition to helping at the scene, I responded with a police chaplain to the home of the girl’s parents to notify them that their daughter would never be coming home again.
After making the death notification, which I contend is the toughest part of being a police officer, I traveled to the school to notify my son that his best friend had died. The chain of events on that fateful December morning is the worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with during my police career. And it has forever changed my life as well as my son’s life.
I wish we didn’t have to deal with tragedies in any shape or form, but sadly we live in an imperfect world.
I want to thank the teacher for recognizing the difficultly we experience in these situations. It never gets easier. For me, it actually becomes more difficult each time something tragic takes place.
With my unique background of dealing with tragedy, I am committed to going in hot pursuit of covering misfortunes with extreme sensitivity and decency to help further everyone involved towards a better place.