August 17, 2017

Note: Sadly, I didn’t know I’d need to update this on the same day I wrote it. Today, someone driving a van in Barcelona killed and hurt dozens of people. It happened after I published. But it’s just as sickening.

Hate is not an easy thing for reporters to contend with. As professionals, we have to be dispassionate, no matter how bad it gets. Our job is to show people what’s happening, not what we think is happening and certainly not what we think about it.

But we’re people too. We feel it when something like Charlottesville happens. Or Manchester. Or any of the unfortunately large number of other events in which people decided to punctuate their beliefs with weapons and horrible words.

We feel it when irrationality leads to sentient creatures getting hurt. It hurts us to report these things. It hurts to quash the bile we feel, but it’s something we need to do. I love my job. But I haven’t loved every day on it.

In the wake of this most recent reminder that hatred, irrationality, and evil are still alive and well in the United States, perhaps its time to try to remind myself, my colleagues, and anyone else why journalistic integrity and grit really are so important:

  • Journalists tell stories because stories need to be told.
  • Stories need to be told because people need their stories to be heard.
  • People need their stories to be heard because they need to know that their pain, their struggles, their fears are not happening in the dark.

One of the great ironies in journalism is that reporters are endlessly cynical people, yet we care very deeply for the betterment of the world. We do what we do because we believe it’s the right thing to do. Voices need to be heard, and we’re the mechanism through which those voices get heard.

I hope the world understands, we don’t enjoy covering things like hate rallies and terrorism. But we do enjoy knowing that we contribute to the conversation; and we especially enjoy knowing that these stories we tell about hate and violence are making other people mad enough to stand up for what’s right.