Monday, October 3, 2016

Reporters Must Be Thick Skinned, Yet Compassionate In 'Hard News' World

Cameron Fields

Covering "hard news" -- news like murders, sexual assault, school shootings -- is "hard" for a reason.

These events are considered hard news because they're difficult to cover in that reporters not only must get the facts straight, but reporters can also experience resistance from the people affected by the events.

Further, as reporters cover events like these, they have to walk a fine line between doing their jobs, as well as giving people privacy in the wake of tragedy.

For example, during the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, some of the local reporters were met with resistance from the people affected by the shooting.

Some of the people in the town felt the reporters were invading their privacy, wanting to grieve in private over the loss of their children and loved ones.

Image result for reporter newtown connecticut
These claims from people in Newtown were reasonable -- anyone who loses a loved one should be able to grieve privately and in peace.

But at some point, the reporters working on the shooting must report on the shooting, which often requires talking to people for comment. Now, to be clear, the people don't have an obligation to comment.

But people shouldn't view the media as adversaries, either. Rather, they should view the media as being people who can relay important information to the public

For example, in July 1994, Maureen Kanka's daughter was raped and murdered in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. Kanka wanted to use the reporters in an effort to get information out to the public. She wanted people to know that her daughter was missing, and she knew the media could help her relay that message to the public.

Reporters should be cognizant of their abilities to control information, too. The reporter still has that gatekeeper role in which they control what is considered news and what isn't.

If they cross that line into something that's not newsworthy, they risk being publicly called out for trying to produce sensational journalism.

Though reporters can be used as tools to get information to the public, reporters should realize that they must not be intrusive. The media already faces stereotypes that portray journalists as people who only care about the story, like robots who are incapable of showing compassion.

Journalists who care only about the story will find themselves unable to gain trust in their sources. Sources want to be able to trust journalists; they don't want to look at journalists as a puppet who is controlled by a story.


On the other side of things, journalists who gain the trust of their sources are able to do their job to the fullest extent.

The reporter and source don't have an adversarial relationship, and at most they have a symbiotic relationship in which the reporter relays the information from the source to the public, and the source willingly gives information to the reporter.

Regardless though, journalists who work in hard news must have thick skin -- they do work with tough topics like murder and crime. But they also must be able to show empathy in order to do their job to the best of their ability.

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