Telling the news is not always easy

Telling the news is not always easy

As a community newspaper, we hear it all the time.

“Why can’t you write about the good news?”

We try. We really do. Around town, in fact, there’s an awful lot of good news and, with the help of readers, we try to get to as much of it as possible.

But there’s another side to the news business.

Darth Vader might call it “the dark side.”

Call it what you will, but despite how it might appear to those inundated by the scandalous and sensationalized news so eagerly served by TV and tabloid papers, we really don’t relish the bad stuff.

Still, it comes with the territory. The news is the news, good or bad.

Every once in a while, however, a story comes along that breaks your heart—even as a hardened news reporter, and this week, several such stories have come across our desks.

The tragic death of 2-year-old Eli Hoy in Sturbridge last Tuesday, as well as the death of 19-year-old Shawna Larassa in a car accident last week, is precisely the kind of story every reporter should dread. You dread it because, despite every personal belief to the contrary, you have to report on it; you have to deliver a story. Why? Because what we chose as our vocation was the newspaper business. People, neighbors, friends, even relatives will want to know what happened.

Now, you can follow the Media Handbook and knock on the family’s door just hours after the mother has run over her young son. Or you can decide that, news or not, it simply isn’t human nature to want to hurt someone even more than they already are.

Knocking on the door of a family whose child has just died a horrific death, you know that’s going to hurt. Even if no one answers, you have to put in your story that you tried. And what happens? You end up looking like a heel, vilified by readers for having no conscience. And for what? What would the family have possibly said that you wouldn’t or couldn’t get in other ways?

You go to neighbors. Sure, they’re hurt and sensitive (the Cooper Street area in Sturbridge has come together admirably in the wake of the Hoy tragedy), but they might tell you a bit about the family. And if you approach it conscientiously, they’ll understand you’re doing your job.

You talk to friends. Talk to the police. Talk to the DA. Maybe you don’t get that big “scoop” of getting the family on record.

In the end, you get something much better. You get respect. You get that good feeling of knowing that, while you might have gone against the media grain, you didn’t do anything to risk adding one more ounce of pain to a family already drowning in it.

That said the public also has a responsibility to know that as a reporter, you’re doing your job. You’re not heartless and cold. You hurt, too. Maybe you have your own kid.

So when you read a story and don’t agree with how a reporter approached it, that’s OK. Let him or her know. But understand, too, that when tragedy strikes, it hurts the reporter, too. It really does.

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