Xavier Smith: Local journalists can’t react the same

Xavier Smith • Updated Oct 4, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Like many others, I didn’t know anything about Sunday night’s shooting in Las Vegas until Monday morning, and by that time, hundreds of media outlets were talking about it. 

Coverage of the attack flooded my Twitter timeline and as I kept trying to decipher real information from theories and rumors, one tweet stuck out to me. Forgive me, because I can’t remember her name or her organization, besides the fact she was with a Las Vegas news outlet. 

In her tweet, she said she was headed home after spending all night covering the attack that killed nearly 60 people and wounded hundreds others. The part that struck me was that she said she was crying. 

It was that simple, and yet, very complex for most people to understand. 

I would never compare our work in media to the work of everyday heroes like first responders, nurses and others like them, but in the midst of tragedy and chaos, we share the common need to put our feelings aside and do what we think is best for the community. 

I, luckily, have never covered anything as tragic as the Las Vegas shooting, but I’ve seen things during my time with The Lebanon Democrat that required me to put my emotions to the side and focus on what’s important for the reader and community to know. 

Often, we become numb to what we cover – shootings, death, other crimes, wrecks. However, sometimes things happen that strike us right in the heart and force us to hide those true feelings for the betterment of the people. 

When I read that tweet, I could sense what it was like to cover something so tragic and have to do so in a timely, accurate fashion where you don’t have time to process your own thoughts or feelings. 

There’s no time for crying. There’s no time for worrying about your own mental status, because you have to get the word out to people who are starving for whatever bit of information they can get to make their next decision. 

In some situations, such as tornadoes and inclement weather, our reporting and news spreading could mean the difference between life and death for some people. Our local emergency service agencies do a great job of sending out information, and it’s our job to connect that information with as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

Community journalists connect to the people in the community, and when something happens that shakes that community, journalists can react the same way as most people.  

When a prominent person in the community dies, we can’t simply mourn. We mourn and make sure their story and impact is told in the most fitting way, and one does not necessarily come before the other. 

This isn’t an attempt to make my profession look more important than it is. However, in the world of “fake news,” understand a majority people in this industry are real people with real feelings who take their commitment seriously.  

Xavier Smith is a staff writer for The Democrat. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @wilsonnewswritr.

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