I don’t know what I was doing on May 24, 2022, when I found out about the horrific massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, but I can tell you my train of thought. My first thought, “Oh, no. Not again,” came with that sinking feeling of imagining — and failing — what the families and community were going through. My second thought went to every time my daughter came home traumatized after enduring an active shooter drill at school. Not every parent knows the devastation of losing a child in a school shooting, but they know that their precious child (and each teacher) must experience the stress of active shooter drills throughout each school year. Just the idea that this is required practice in our nation’s schools casts a bleak pall over our country.
Over the next couple of days, we here at E&P learned that a journalist at the Uvalde Leader-Times lost a child in the school shooting. Without knowing Kimberly Mata-Rubio or anything about her, this fact brought this incident home. She is “one of our own,” and by extension, her newsroom at the Leader-Times was part of our family. I began thinking about our industry’s individual newsrooms — large and small. We constantly talk about the importance of local newsrooms covering their communities’ news, but what happens when that newsroom is covering a disaster of the magnitude of the Uvalde school shooting, where the victims involved are young children, where the disaster hits home in such a personal way? What happens when it’s one of our small-market titles, where the publisher may also be the editor, reporter and the high school sports photographer, where members of the newsroom are like a family, sharing meals and watching each other’s children grow up? Does that newsroom have a plan if it happens there?
We had other editorial plans for this issue, but I knew this was a critical time in our country and industry. When I contacted Gretchen Peck and asked if she could pivot from another assignment to tell this story, which felt hand-in-hand with our feature this month on journalism and mental health, she agreed.
Newsrooms today have to consider safety like never before in history. Our journalists are often in dangerous and stressful situations just doing their job. Even day-to-day professional pressures can take a toll on mental health, but this conversation is particularly important for newsrooms bearing witness to appalling crimes.
Our “Reporting on…” series seeks to peel back the curtain on what's it like to report on significant, sweeping topics and times of crisis and look at the resources required to cover them.
This month’s feature is more emotional because of the subject matter and that it affected one of our nation’s newsrooms — members of our extended news family — in such a devastating and personal way.
What we at E&P hope you take from this is our concern for you and our desire to honor the heroic service you deliver every day. Politics aside, we’re all in this together — one big family.
Robin Blinder is E&P's associate publisher and vice president of content. She has been with E&P for two years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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