by Melissa Brunner
Trust me, most news people do not delight in tragedies. Sure, there may be an adrenaline rush of breaking news and you may appreciate reporting the big story, but it's not a "happy and enjoying it" type of feeling. Especially when it's a plane going down in a ball of flames in a corn field with a young couple and their seven- and five-year old daughters on board.
"How do journalists do it?" is a question I'm often asked. Part of it is simply separating yourself from the scene. You take a moment to sink in the gravity of the situation and then you go about doing your job. I've always said that when I stop feeling the emotion of such tragic situations, I'll know I've been doing this too long.
Setting aside the tragedy of Friday's plane crash became especially difficult when a co-worker came to the newsroom to ask what information we had - because she thought she might know the victims. We told her what we knew, then continued sorting out information. About a half hour later, I walked to her office to show her a web site for the company that owned the plane. The photos of the families involved in the company were different than the people she knew. It was a brief glimmer of hope shattered moments later. As I was about to return to the newsroom, her phone rang - a call delivering the news that these were, in fact, the people she knew. All I could do was give her a hug, spend a few moments to express my sympathies, and, then, I had to go back to the newsroom, back to my job.
Covering tragedies is a part of the job. Often times, we meet people when they are in a situation in which they do not want to be, through no fault of their own. We ask these people to share their stories so that the event seems more human to others, so you can see a real person, a real family, a real life is at the center of it. For some, it can be therapeutic - we witnessed the amazing strength of the parents of 14-year old Tyler Dowling, speaking with us the day after their son was found murdered about who their son was and why he was loved. We give people the option of saying no. Regardless, it is my goal to treat them and their story with respect. After all, they did not ask to be in that position.