I was a journalist on Sept. 11, 2001, working for a local direct mail, weekly publication that included several pages of “good news” (read “fluff”) editorial copy. As editor, I had to put the paper to bed two days after 9/11.
I remember going to work the next day, sitting at my desk, and feeling numb…at a loss for what to write. Covering fluff in the Philadelphia suburbs, I had no business covering the horrific event. Yet, I couldn’t ignore it either.
I imagine it’s the same challenge faced by journalists outside of Colorado today and throughout this week. Of course, there are AP wire stories that will undoubtedly run in most papers. But local news must go on locally, regardless.
An obvious answer is to localize the story. And many journalists in my region are doing just that tonight — using social media to ask questions like, “will you still see the movie?”
I did my best to localize the story back in 2001 (oh how I wish social media existed then). Now defunct Philly radio station Y-100 was holding a 9/11 supply drive at a major shopping complex just outside of my coverage area. I interviewed one of the morning show hosts by phone and hung out at the supply drop, which yielded dozens of tractor trailers full of supplies for rescue crews in Jersey City and Manhattan.
In the scheme of things, the supply drive and story were small. But for those of us involved, it helped us get though the day/week feeling like we did *something* to help our fellow man. It helped us move on.
For my editorial column that week, I actually wrote about the challenge of going through the day as if things were normal. And the following week, I interviewed a rep from the local American Red Cross chapter about the ways in which people not impacted by the crisis can help.
Today, my thoughts are with the wounded individuals and victims’ families of the Colorado theater shootings – and with the journalists who must move on with their coverage in spite of tragedy.