Our coverage always hits close to home

Being a journalist is not always a comfortable profession, especially with the recent climate and upheaval around our nation. Reporters and editors here have to cover disturbing and tragic events that occur within the community where they live. They also regularly go to vehicle accidents and fires that occur near their neighborhoods.

We report on arrests that are released by area police departments and cover local governments that are run by people we are accountable to every day.

We also are required to be ethical and objective.

It sounds easy. But that is before you add an ingredient of being personally impacted by something you are covering.

Firefighters, police and emergency responders face the same dilemma on an almost daily basis. We all see the best — and worst — in the human condition.

Big-city journalism — whether on television, radio, in print or online — brings a large spotlight, but it is just not that personal. You are reporting to hundreds of thousands of people on a slice of life in a major metropolitan area.

With community reporters such as those here at the OBSERVER, there is a lot more accountability. You will see us in local stores, at Music on the Pier and even at area school events.

We have a connection to just about everything we cover. That is why when someone is hurting locally, whether it be through previewing a benefit or a serious vehicle accident, there is a part of that story that touches us at this newspaper.

Here, we all attempt to be as sensitive as possible in covering those issues. We understand what we put into print and online affects all of us.

It will be there today and for years to come — and not go away.

On June 28, I was in attendance at the North County Water District meeting in the Fireside Restaurant in the town of Dunkirk when I learned of the horror that was happening in Annapolis, Md., at the Capital Gazette. The publication was under attack by a man who had a notorious past.

He was a threat to at least one woman — who feared for her life so much that she fled the state. The Gazette covered his case and Jarrod Ramos held that grudge until he got his revenge last week, killing five people who were doing their jobs.

All too typical of America in this era, many blame others for their personal responsibilities. Usually, the media is easy to blame. Look no further than our current president. He began the campaign of “fake news” and has a tremendous following — so much so he was elected.

There’s a real danger to this belief. While we have every right to cheer on our elected officials, we need to be just as skeptical of them.

Closer to home, elected leaders are often well known and respected. They are human as well.

Just because an article appears in this newspaper that does not mean it is easy to report on the individual who is accused of wrong-doing in the public sector. It is, just the opposite, very uneasy.

In 37 years of working for five newspapers, I have accepted there will be dangers. I’ve been to shootings. I have witnessed horrific fires. I have come home in tears after some things that you never want to see when you get into the profession. That’s unsettling.

There’s been plenty of threats as well — some personally and some to the institution.

But all of our staff — in the newsroom, advertising, circulation and production — are committed to this community. We live here. We volunteer in area organizations. We contribute to this economy — and to our charities.

We have a belief that we can make things better and help right the wrongs right here at home. We can help a group get the word out on their event or fund-raiser. We’re just as proud to recognize achievements in education and in business.

Those are the days we cherish.

But there are tough days. We mourn over major accidents with serious injuries, and possibly a death. We cover with disappointment a factory closing and an inferno that devastates a downtown block.

Ironically, that bad news is what drives increased readership. That is when we all suffer.

I cannot know the pain of those in the Annapolis newsroom that continues today. I do, however, know the emotions I had for them — and for the rest of us community journalists.

We will carry on.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.

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