As we begin a new year, I have one piece of advice to share: “Remember to breathe.”
Too often it feels like we are holding in that last intake of air as we hurry to meet a deadline or rush to report on the latest breaking news. Our bodies tense. Our minds freeze. Perhaps there’s confusion, maybe there’s pain. Whatever it is, inhale and exhale.
I say this because as I’m writing this editorial, the media is in San Bernardino, Calif., the scene of a mass shooting where 14 people were killed. A week earlier, three people were killed at a Planned Parenthood location in Colorado Springs, Colo. Before that, the Paris attacks, where more than 100 people died.
There’s no time to catch our breath.
“Here we go. Again,” CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin said when news broke about the shooting in California. She told the New York Times, “I’ve done it enough,” she said. “I’m sick of doing it. I know what questions to ask.” (nyti.ms/1OCvpD3)
Alison Mitchell, the national editor of the New York Times, had just completed publishing a profile of the suspect in the Planned Parenthood attack when the events in California occurred. She told the Times she knew in order to get the story going, she had to dispatch more reporters, calling it “something of a playbook now” as though the motions had become an automatic reflex.
“I think we’re experienced at doing it,” Patti Dennis, vice president of news for Tegna Media, told the Times after the shooting in San Bernardino.
All of that makes me wonder: Should mass shootings become its own beat?
The Washington Post reported that the San Bernardino shooting was the 355th mass shooting in 2015 (wapo.st/1YIDbhz). With that kind of grim statistic, it wouldn’t be surprising if newspapers started dedicating more staff and resources to covering mass shootings on an ongoing basis. If that’s where we’re heading, self-care is something that should be practiced more often in newsrooms.
Last year, the York Daily Record in Pennsylvania launched a peer-support program for journalists who cover stories of trauma (bit.ly/1XOolDU). Created in a partnership with Dart Center, the program’s goal, according to enterprise editor Scott Blanchard, “is to cover trauma survivors with greater knowledge and sensitivity, and to recognize when a colleague might need help dealing with a difficult assignment.” The program has already been presented at Digital First Media (the paper’s former parent company) properties along the East Coast, and now that YDR is owned by Gannett, Blanchard said he hopes to bring the program to those properties and to become a resource to other organizations (bit.ly/1Q5D6mK).
I applaud those efforts because so many times journalists are trying to “take care” of their stories that they often forget to take care of themselves.
This month will mark the one-year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks that left 12 dead at the French satirical newspaper. No one could have predicted 2015 to start in that manner, so we certainly don’t know what 2016 will produce yet. Whatever the new year will bring us in breaking news, remember, no matter how breathless you feel, no matter how much you want to hold in that breath, let it out.