The murders of WDBJ journalists Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, just happened a little more than five hours ago. This is the stuff of nightmares for anyone in news. Many journalists are facing that nightmare today head-on; picking up their gear and heading out to find information, whether it be a feature or an investigation, and bring it to the public.
News is a calling and those who do it love it.
We all have goals and aspirations of where we want to go in our careers, rarely is it ever for money (because ask any journalist and s/he will tell you how much we don’t make), nor is it for fame (though there are some who do).
Really, we just want to make a difference. That’s why I got into news. I saw it as a platform, being a voice for the voiceless, and telling a compelling story that mattered to both the subject of the piece and the audience watching.
We cover a lot of tragedy during our careers and see a lot of terrible scenes. I have reported on plenty of horrific stories:
-Domestic violence incidents (police doing a terrible job of covering the body a woman shot in the head by an ex)
- Fatal vehicle accidents (car vs. semi leading to a decapitation)
- A gunshot victim left uncovered on a front lawn while the police investigate and neighbors look on
- Pedestrian vs. train accidents
- Countless animal abuse
- The worst, a four year old boy who had his eyes gouged out and eaten by his father
After enough of those types of stories - we get jaded. Sometimes we make inappropriate comments as a means to keep our sanity. Honestly, some people would be shocked to hear what’s said in most newsrooms.
Today, I can assure you, those newsrooms are quiet. Filled with a somber and reflective silence. Some journalists are probably wondering, “Is it worth it?” “Should I get out and start a marketing/public relations job?” It is a normal thought. Journalists are regularly confronted with the evil of world - just as much as any law enforcement personnel.
It is easy to burn out, want to give up and walk away. For those who are choosing to stay, because news matters, I want to pass on a phrase I was told years ago:
Sometimes a journalist will have an incredible story that matters to the public, saves lives, enacts change, and makes a difference in someone’s life. Those stories are few and far between. In order to have a career that spans decades, the key is to find one small victory - each day. I mean it, let it become your routine.
Here’s how to do it: at the end of the day think back - “What is one part of the day that went well?” Maybe you got one great sound bite, lit an interview well, got to use a fun song or movie clip in a story, maybe you had a good lunch. No matter what - find the small victory.
It may not seem like much, but at least we make it a point to focus on the positive. It’s our small way of fighting against the darkness and tragedy of the world, which we know all too well.
On a day like today, where our hearts and minds are heavy because we are reminded of the dangers and ugliness of the world, it may be hard to find that small victory. If nothing else, let it be that you kept Alison and Adam in your heart today. That maybe you worked a little bit harder, because the world lost two hard-working journalists.