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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In Praise of The Journalists Covering the Virginia Tech Shootings

Since Monday, my Significant Other and other friends of ours have been in Blacksburg covering the events for different newspapers. They are journalists.

For starters, people who get paid to stand on camera and hold a microphone because they take a fake tan well and can approximate verbal gravitas are not journalists. Nor are pundits. Let’s get that incorrect notion out of the way right now. Brian Williams is not a journalist. Katie Couric is not a journalist. Dr. Phil is not a journalist. Nancy Grace is not a journalist. Some bonehead who made it to network because she was the prettiest gal on camera at WVLT in Knoxville, Tennessee, isn't a journalist. Former law enforcement officers now peddling their wares as “suspect profilers” are not journalists.

Journalists are the ones who get zero glory and have spent the last three sleepless days walking around trying to figure out how to best transcribe overwhelming pain and anguish. They’re the ones gathering the actual pieces of information that you are seeing in newspapers and online. They are the reason you knew throughout the day Monday that there was an unbearably escalating death toll in a small town 270 miles away. They are the reason you know who is responsible for the killings and that he had a history of violent writings and bizarre behavior. They are the reason you know that the students and staff killed were each in their own way remarkable and brave people. They are the reason you knew of the sorrowful convocation of the Virginia Tech family yesterday afternoon in Blacksburg, and the vigil last night, even though you weren’t there. You know all this because they found out for you.

They do a job you can’t even fathom doing. The least you could do is learn who they are, and lean toward showing them some respect or gratitude, rather than slamming them.

8 Comments:

Blogger Static Cling said...

Well said. Those who are helping tell this story without sensationalism or speculation, but with the respect, reverence and sensitivity it deserves, are more than worthy of our praise and our sincere gratitude.

We will prevail.
We are Virginia Tech.

7:08 PM  
Blogger honeykbee said...

You know what? You're right. Thank you for the perspective.

Also, what exactly is it that Dr. Phil does?

7:59 PM  
Blogger Kathryn Is So Over said...

If it's affecting us all this much from afar, I can only imagine the impact of seeing that much grief up close and personal... and then finding the words to succinctly and objectively describe it to the world.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Alejandra said...

I was going to comment, but my response got so freaking long that I just made it a post over on my blog.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Brunch Bird said...

Alejandra, rightly realizing that I allow no dissent on my blog, has taken her hairbrained notion that there are some real journalists in the broadcasting field over to her own blog. ;-)
Seriously, she makes a good point that I will of course concede. However, after seven years working among TV reporters in markets small and large, I cannot concede that quality journalism is the norm in their ranks. I'd argue that it is the exception.
In any case, check out her thoughts. They're interesting and clearly heartfelt.

HKB on the other hand has rightly realized that the quickest way to my heart is to start a comment by saying, "You know what? You're right."

SC-They're doing what they can.

Kathryn-Yeah, when I was a newspaper reporter that was one of the most ignorant, obnoxious things we'd be confronted with: the attitude that we are somehow all unfeeling androids who aren't affected by having to work with people who are experiencing the worst moment of their lives. They sob to us, and ask us for guidance, too, and people don't realize that. They want to read about it the next day, but they don't want to think about how it got in the paper in the first place. The S.O. seemed to be taking it all in stride until he called today and said he'd be there at least another day. He was walking into a convenience store when he called. The next thing I heard him say was, "Jesus Christ they don't have any Diet Cokes?!" That would be the proverbial last straw.

10:15 PM  
Blogger E :) said...

We need tenacious journalists. We do not need pundits harping on from the sidelines. You're right - there is a big difference.

10:17 PM  
Anonymous etcetera said...

in my own work, i have often uderestimated the impact of mere proximity to pain, disaster and heartache. it hits me afterwards...

sending hugs (and diet coke) to the S.O.

2:29 AM  
Blogger EJ Takes Life said...

After reading this, I realize I should have been more clear in my own rant about media coverage of the shootings. I still stand by what I say for every talking head and desk jockey, but my comments about insensitivity don't pertain to the reporters on the ground, and that is a point very much worth clarifying. I've been a reporter before and understand how hard it is both to report a story with respect for all parties and to do your job without letting it consume you. That qualification agreed with, I still am really disgusted with the blame game that so many anchors and pundits are playing, and that sadly does comprise an ever-larger part of the media as many people receive it.

12:50 AM  

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