The news you don’t want to report, but have to

This post may seem extremely obvious. As plain-as-the nose-on-your-face obvious. Nonetheless, writing this out is helping me heal from today.

News is a double-edged sword as a career. There are its shining moments, where you are able to shed light on criminal activity and corruption or highlight the beauty of a human soul. Then there are the destructive stories, where you challenge humanity, fairness and many other life questions that don’t always have pleasant answers.

Today was one of the latter.

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Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers

Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers

If you haven’t heard already, two seniors at Shenendehowa High School were killed in a fatal car crash last night (Saturday). Their two significant others, also young students at local schools, were seriously injured. The man who police believe to be responsible is expected to face charges: two counts of vehicular manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. More of YNN’s coverage here.

In any crucial news story like this, I’m constantly prowling for information, discussing what other resources we can tap into, poring over Facebook profiles and Twitter to find tidbits about the subject of a story.

If it sounds somewhat stalker-like, well, it is.

If it sounds somewhat stalker-like, well… it is.

A news station’s goal is to be able to provide as many intimate details of a person so that ALL can understand who he/she is.

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These efforts aren’t automatic and mechanical, though. At least, they weren’t today. Personally, they were punctuated by moments of heartache, seconds of quick prayer, a hard swallow to stop tears from forming in my eyes.

As jaded as I have become – and will continue to be – I can’t forget pain. Who is really able to?

It’s a battle to be able to put emotions aside for a few minutes to dig into the facts of a story, and then return to the emotional numbness for just a few snatches of time before you get back to your work. It is our duty to get the facts out there.

All this… is part of my job.

 

… quite the challenge, the journalism profession.

 

Also, all this was further perpetuated by MORE BAD NEWS. That’s to come in the next post.

Change: A Choice

It’s been quite the year.

In the many moments of contemplation, reflection and assessment, a small thought came to mind that I thought I’d share. It followed the discovery of this bumper sticker:

Now I’m going to pull a switcheroo 🙂

I say: “Struggle is inevitable. Change is an option.

Undeniably, change is a part of life. I think that’s what the creator of the original slogan had in mind. There’s no way to predict the valleys or mountains that suddenly appear on the horizon or even right on your doorstep. As humans, most of us bristle at the unexpectedness we have to wade our way through. Change is not easy. So we struggle.

Remember, I said, ‘we.’ I struggle with mental, emotional, physical battles on a day-to-day basis. And I have no doubt that there will be more struggles with every flip of the calendar.

Amid all that, there is a choice. Many, in fact. Those decisions range from “Will I continue to struggle?” to “What can I avoid to make this easier?” The most important question though:

“What am I to learn from this?”

We can choose to change. We can choose to not make the same mistake again that leads to such suffering. We can choose to turn the other cheek. We can choose to fight harder. We can choose to not allow others to struggle like us. In doing so, we can make the choice to change for the better.

A lot of options. They’re yours to select. I’m still working through my choice now.

those three little words

… that pack a big punch.

I’m going to stray away from my random newsgathering-related rambles and tackle one of the most written-about subjects of all time.

yup. you got it.

To be honest, I’m not planning on questioning its significance or how one recovers from heartbreak or any of its deeper profound moments. I just wanted to write an entry as an ode to those three words that can make or break our lives.

Today I learned that a friend heard those words from a man she cares about this past weekend, and for the first time, no less!  I yelped in excitement, I giggled, and even ran over to give her a hug. She was, in her words, “on Cloud 9.”

I’ve gone through my share of pain due to love, but when I saw someone who stepped into that place of being deeply and openly cherished for the first time, my heart leapt in mutual joy.

To know love, to live love, and to give it is one of the greatest parts of our lives on earth. Call me a sap, but even if I’m not the one all aflutter, I can’t help but celebrate its vibrancy in those around me. Love is an action. Love is a decision. Love is purposeful. The list goes on.

To wrap up:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” – John 15:9

and to those of you who know me well:

I love you.

The compromise of a deadline

Last week I had the assignment of covering two debates prior to Primary Day, which is Thursday, September 13.

Reminder: GO OUT AND VOTE! 🙂

However, debates are not very easy to cover. Here’s why:

1. If the candidates do their job, there is a LOT of information

2. As a reporter, I have to pick and choose which issues to address

3. There isn’t much time to do so

4. It still has to be a cohesive story a viewer will want to watch

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Unfortunately, the first night I didn’t make my 11 p.m. deadline. I was crushed. It still ran as the top story in our hyperlocal news block because of other political coverage that ran late, but that doesn’t excuse my failing.

So what happened? After racking my brain, I believe it truly came down to wanting to put together the best piece for the audience (Here it is). If you weren’t at the debate, well, by hook or by crook, NOW you’ve got what you need to know on the screen in front of you. In making this my goal, I got caught up in wording and sequencing and most importantly, fairness… and the production just went too long. I didn’t finish on time.

Angry at myself, I went on to the next night’s debate, determined to have my package in before 11.

I did.

Though proud I had met my goal, I realized there was a sacrifice made. As I was writing, editing, regurgitating, I kept telling myself, “It’s not going to be perfect, but just get it done.”

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Therein lies something deeper.

As a journalist, meeting your deadline can often become the highest priority. The news needs to be released IMMEDIATELY.

If only newsrooms were like http://www.savagechickens.com (yes, check it out)

But in the process, are we losing quality?

I know that I did. Before I went to bed that night, I admitted to myself there was a better way I could’ve wrapped up that debate recap. The ending I used? Not horrible. Was it fluid? Could’ve been smoother.

It makes you wonder just how much good storytelling we lose because of the need to be first/prompt/within a certain time frame. Because we definitely do.

In the end, it comes down to whether you value the immediacy or the quality of the information. News… is news.

Too Much Snooki?

A colleage of mine posted this on Facebook: “If you worked at a station that makes… sure to do a story about Snooki having her baby, would you be ashamed?”

A solid, solid question, as I ended up being the “lucky” anchor who read the story.

For those of you who are wise enough to not know who Snooki is

I think more than my opinion, I’m interested in yours. However, I’ll share mine to get the ball rolling.

As much as we hate to think that personal developments in the lives of reality TV stars deserve airtime, they will get it. What has Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi done to be on news outlets? Nothing on the level of politicians, heroes, leaders, entrepreneurs, learners, teachers and others. Yet TV stations (and other media outlets) cover her life because she’s wormed her way into ours. Her obsessions, quirks, outspoken words and sometimes complete ignorance have horrified and captivated us to the point where any action of hers demands our attention.

As a journalist, I hate that her child’s birth gets coverage. As a subscriber to bad TV? I yelped when I heard she went into labor.

Managers who decide not to address Snooki’s son in their newscasts should be lauded and admired. However, I guarantee the majority will choose to make mention because they will receive the ratings and the attention from the general public. Not to mention… they were probably just as fascinated.

Do we blame the media? It certainly is an easy out. But before we shake our heads at the networks, let’s take a look at ourselves.

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I’m the first one to say I need to change my interests before I judge that of others.

The ‘About-Face’

It’s been just three days since a dozen people were killed and 58 people injured in the movie theater massacre in Aurora, CO. That same day, NY State Police charged two teenagers in Montgomery County with the murder of two other teenagers.

You know what else? It was also Opening Day for the 144th season at the Saratoga Race Course.

I didn’t work that Friday, but I was constantly refreshing Twitter, checking my YNN emails, and I was proud of how my station covered these events. As much as the track is an important part of our region, our news team knew that such pain needed to take precedence. At the same time, they chose not to ignore the lighter stories.

I call it the ‘about-face.’ As an anchor, you want to be solemn when speaking of the details of grievous moments. But two minutes later, you could be seeing a story about a county fair.

(Note: To be fair, there usually is a wider gap between such content. Props to good producers)

While this back-and-forth is difficult to adapt to, we can’t deny that all sorts of news can happen at any and all times. Yes, there are points where you deliberately back off the fluff. But refusal to accept the more palatable stories isn’t realistic either, seeing that a balance of both sides is reflected in human life.

In one week, one of my closest friends will be getting married. I’ll be standing inches away from her as she commits to be faithful to the man she loves, and guaranteed, my heart will be overflowing with joy.

Yet a few days ago, this same dear friend’s grandmother was hospitalized. In her words: “Barring miracles, she won’t last too long.” Tears were streaming. How does one deal with a deeply rooted grief when a long-anticipated celebration is on the horizon? Do you have to choose?

I wish I had the answer to help her cope. I don’t. What I do know is that you can’t cold-shoulder one or the other. The two impacting moments are part of her, and my life. As they unfold, we will do our best to address them.

We’ll do an about-face. But we’ll turn around, over and over, as often as we have to. At some point, the spins will blur.