When to Put the Pen and Paper Away

via ajanaku.com

via ajanaku.com

There are times when you have to realize you have to put down the pen and paper and be a human being. I’ve encountered a few of those times. They certainly aren’t easy, but, as a reporter, you have to have that in the back of your mind at all times.

Of course, you are there to find and report the news and what’s happening, but there is a line you shouldn’t cross.

Disclaimer: This is of course my opinion on the events/circumstances that I’ve encountered. By all means, please disagree with me and tell me what you would do differently.

I tend to put myself in other people’s shoes a lot. It’s a habit that I’ve gotten into since I started here and it has yet to go away.

I’ve found there are certain instances where I shouldn’t talk to family members or people in general. Sometimes just writing down what you hear, see and smell is enough to get what you are looking for.

Getting that awesome quote is great, but getting enough information to try and put the reader at an incident or crime scene is another.

Some incidents where I haven’t talked to loved ones or homeowners include:

  • An armed standoff that ended in suicide.
  • A car vs. motorcycle accident where the motorcycle driver was taken to the hospital via Life Star.
  • Two separate fires that completely destroyed both homes.

At each of those stories, I could have talked to people, besides emergency officials, but I decided not to. I followed-up after a couple days, in most cases, with those people, but during and immediately after those incidents, I left them alone.

It was a judgement call that I didn’t have to think twice about. I just left them alone. Plain and simple. I know other reporters would have handled things a bit differently. I can live with myself knowing I still had great stories, even without the great quotes I may have gotten from talking to those people.

If you wanted to approach them, you’d have to put the pen and paper down, introduce yourself and be a human being. I wouldn’t recommend doing it. I’d wait to see if they approach you, but I highly doubt they would do that right away.

Maybe a week or so later they may want to talk, on their own terms, but I doubt it. Most people don’t like their names in the paper to begin with, never mind talking about some horrible thing that just happened to them.

As reporters, we have to realize this balance. If we don’t, we are doing a disservice, no? We have to realize that.

Jonathan

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