Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Covering Atrocity

I couldn't help but find it ironic that the day BB lectured to us on reporting war and conflict, the largest, most devastating school shooting occurred just hours before. Right now, I am sitting glued to my television watching Matt and Meredith report the tragedy for the TODAY Show. I wonder, what if I was sent to cover this story? Who would I want to interview? What questions would I ask? Could I hold back tears? Could I refrain from showing emotion?

While watching friends and family members of innocent victims that were shot and killed yesterday my eyes start to water, my stomach drops and my heart beats faster. I can't help but feel pain, anger, and sadness for the thousands of kids, who are just like me, deal with such a horrific tragedy. I applaud those who are speaking with reporters and agree to be on television to share loving memories of their sisters, brothers, teachers and friends that they lost. I really don't think I could.

As a reporter I know it is important to put emotions aside when reporting, but that doesn't mean it is easy. Whether reporting in Iraq or at Virginia Tech, I think the most difficult story to cover is one of tragedy. As a war correspondent, I think you have to go expecting to see blood, death and horror. But, when something so terrible happens to innocent people who were simply doing what they normally do...I think the story becomes much more difficult to cover.

I do hope the media switches directions in its coverage. I have heard a lot of programs involving psychologists to get a psycho-analysis on 'what makes people snap?', 'why do people go on shooting rampages?'. In my mind, this is good knowledge, but not nearly as important as 'what needs to be done now?', 'How can other colleges and universities prepare their campuses for an event like this?' I remember in the wake of the Columbine High School shooting, my high school had numerous lock-down drills. We were prepared because the same thing could happen there and the school had the responsibility to protect the 2,000 students that attended my high school. The same needs to be done at colleges. Whether a small private college, or a well-known state school or university, the media needs to alert school officials the importance of being prepared.

My heart goes out to all those at Virginia Tech--all those who must return to go on with their daily lives knowing the tragedy that occurred. My prayers are with the families of the victims and those wounded who lie in hospital beds hanging onto their lives. It is difficult for me to distance myself from this tragedy as I was attending the UofA not too long ago. These kids are just like me and my friends.

I sincerely hope I never have to cover an event like this one because I hope that something like this never happens again. But if I do, how do I prepare myself? How do I put on a strong face and report a horrific tragedy like this one?


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