I’m a creative person, I love music, and I’m curious by nature; all these things led me to a career in the media. But more specifically, radio. I’m just a producer; I spend my days making commercials and imaging, with my one 6 hour voice tracked show once a week. But there are people in this building who chose to spend their lives scrolling through news stories about murders, terrorist attacks, wars, kidnappings, and car crashes. Not because they like reading those stories, that’s just our world today. It’s not pretty, but it’s what is happening.
In December 2010, there was a shooting in our area. Two innocent lives were taken. Two beloved women. A man was arrested for it, but his trial kept getting held over until this week; 5 and a half years later. Our news team was reporting on it.
The 911 call was released to the media, something that is usually done in situations like this. Our news team chose to share it; a decision that did not come lightly. As difficult as it may be for some people to understand, that’s the news. Our job is to share as much information with our listeners as we possibly can. This 911 call was posted on our website, available to anyone who is naturally curious, like ourselves. But some people didn’t like that.
An acquaintance of mine (I put that in italics because she’s hardly even that) made a post on her personal Facebook page about how disrespectful it was, how she was sickened by our decision to share this information. How it made this difficult time all that much harder for her. But we did not force her to listen, we did not broadcast it live on air. If you heard it you made that decision on your own. So of course, when my team is being called disgusting and heartless, I stood up for them. I told them, it’s not pretty but it’s the news and it’s their job. And boy, did they hate that. We were accused of seeing this as “just a story”, that as media all we care about is ratings. We’re not even in a rated market. I was ripped apart for having no compassion, no understanding. I can take it. I’m okay with being witch hunted, I already have the wardrobe.
The media is not evil. News reporters are not heartless sociopaths. They struggle every day to make tough calls about what to share and what not to share. We weren’t the only station to share that 911 call, and if we hadn’t every other station still would have. Other news outlets across our province described every detail of that crime scene. We shared a trimmed version of the call; other outlets shared the entire phone call, it’s transcript, and details about the victims’ positions at time of death. It’s sad, and it’d hard to listen to, but we didn’t force anyone to listen! We were talked about as if it were our fault that it was heard. We were talked about as if we had broadcasted it live on air for everyone to hear. They literally used the word ‘broadcasted’, clearly they don’t know what that word means.
We get complaints when we don’t share enough information, and then we get complaints when we share too much. And we only got complaints because this is the community that was hit. 9 times out of 10 these same people who are complaining would be tuning in to hear about someone else’s tragedy. Attacking the messenger doesn’t change anything. Direct your anger towards the man who took those innocent lives.
You don’t know the discussions that happen in a news room when trying to decide how to approach a difficult topic. You don’t know what kind of things we have been through personally. You don’t know just how much we understand your pain. We’re a part of this community too.
I made a lot of enemies by defending my co workers decision to share this 911 call. But I don’t regret it, because I stood up for friends. I stood up for people who have hearts, and whose hearts break for those victims and their loved ones just like everyone else’s.
The world is an ugly place, but if you want to hear news stories about happier things…
start being better people.