I’ve covered all kinds of violence in my over 30-year career as a newspaper journalist. The scenes have been horrific, the tragedies painful and hard not to carry home with you at the end of a day, no matter how detached you might try to be from what is unfolding in front of you.
It has been my job to report the news and go wherever the news might take me on any given day. That’s what real journalists do. It’s not about the money or the perceived power; it’s about telling the story, providing readers a true picture of what is happening in their community.
Sometimes my job has been fun and rewarding, sometimes informative, sometimes infuriating and sometimes very, very sad. When I was the crime reporter for The Wilson Daily Times, most of the news I covered was, simply put, tragic. I was either on the scene of a horrible crime or interviewing victims or loved ones of those killed tragically on nearly a weekly basis. On the one hand it often made me realize how blessed I have been; on the other, it left me bewildered as to what’s inside a human being that allows them to harm another.
As hard as I tried not to become emotionally attached at those times, I often failed. Grief has a way of pulling me in, and my mothering nature has a way of keeping me there, trying my best to help others make sense of senseless tragedies. I hope it’s what has helped me to convey victims’ stories to readers through the years, painting a picture that I always pray sparks compassion and understanding.
As journalists, we are the storytellers, the ones behind the camera, holding the pen and pad, covering the unfolding dramas.
That’s why when two brethren from a Roanoke, Va. television station were gun downed last week while covering the most noncontroversial type of news story, it was like a red-hot poker cutting through my heart. It was senseless, it was tragic and it hit really close to home.
I’ve been threatened. It’s part of the job. You don’t like it, but you know when you stick your neck out to cover a story, there will be those who like it, those who don’t and those who either pick up the phone and spew obscenities at you or make veiled threats toward you. Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27 probably knew that, too, although they likely never expected to be shot doing jobs they loved.
But those gunshots won’t stop community journalism. We will keep telling the good news stories, reporting on crimes, laying out the facts from government meetings and doing our best to give you a fair and accurate picture of what goes on in Sampson County.
We owe it to our readers and we owe it to Parker and Ward and other journalists who have given their lives doing their jobs.
Reach publisher and editor Sherry Matthews at 910-249-4612. Follow her on Twitter @sieditor1960; follow the paper @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.