soccer practice and crime-scene tape

Balancing family life and breaking news in the LBC

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Dealing with tragedy

My editor wrote up this column after an officer-involved shooting. Many times we show up to scenes after everything has taken place and what we see is law enforcement dealing with the aftermath. 

But even that can be heart-wrenching. There have been countless times when a family members shows up to a homicide scene and learns their loved one has been killed. Watching a person in so much pain can be difficult. 

It’s a much more rare occurrence to arrive to a scene and see the incident take place. Well that happened to a staff photographer recently. This photographer has been to countless scenes but recently she watched an officer-involved shooting where a woman was shot several times. She survived. 

After talking about it with the photographer and with other journalists what we learned is we all dealt with it differently and how we cope individually is something we each have to discover. 

I hope you enjoy reading this piece by my editor, Melissa Evans. 

http://www.presstelegram.com/general-news/20131123/tragedy-sadness-part-of-a-journalists-job

Filed under journalism Women in Journalism coping Crime

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Dealing with it

Recently, several colleagues and I had a discussion of how we individually dealt with some of the tragic incidents we have witnesses and have had to report on. 

The conversation was sparked following an officer-involved shooting a few days ago in Long Beach were a woman who was holding what turned out to be a replica handgun was shot and wounded by police. Our newspaper’s photographer saw the entire thing unfold through her lens and she was visibly shaken. 

I have been reporting on crime for nearly a decade and in that time I have had to witness horrific events, interview people after a tragic loss or life-changing experience or, in one case, watch someone die. Crime reporters and war correspondents especially, have to see things that the majority of the general public will never have to experience. But how do we deal with it?

The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma ( http://dartcenter.org/) is dedicated to helping journalists cope with the trauma they see. 


We all agreed that talking about it helps tremendously. But not to just anyone, to others who have had similar experiences be they journalists or first responders. 

"It’s not something you can talk about to just anyone," said a friend. "Not everyone wants to hear about those kinds of things. The death, the hurt children and just the f**ked up things that people can do."

Another reporter said she gave herself the time to decompress and if needed she cried without shame. Personally, I don’t think a person’s ability not to cry or react shows that you are stronger or tougher in this game and if you need to let those emotions out to keep your sanity and return to work to meet deadline another day, then do it. 

I honestly don’t know how I deal with the things I see. I would be lying if I say that when I have to cover an incident that involves children I didn’t think of my three but I don’t dwell on it. I have not come home and broken down after a difficult story nor have I used any of the psychological services that have been offered by my employer and I’m not exactly sure why I haven’t. 

What I can say is I try my best to write follow-ups about some of these victims who cannot speak for themselves.

After a violent head-on vehicle collision where I saw a man die, I went to his friends and family and learned although he had no children of his own, he was “grandpa” to many. He was a regular at a local greasy spoon. So much so, that much like Norm, he had his own spot at the counter.

In a tragic accident where a father backed over one of his young twin sons, I learned the little boy was a bit of a ladies, man, shyly and slyly asking older ladies, some as old as 12, for kisses.  

I don’t know, maybe that’s my therapy. Not letting a tragic event define a person’s life. That fatal collision should not define that man. 

Filed under journalism Women in Journalism ptsd trauma death

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A Hard Week

Some of you out there may have heard about a pretty big story that came out of Long Beach a little more than a week ago. 

A 53-year-old elementary school teacher, Kellye Taylor, was stabbed in the neck while she sat at the park watching about two dozen students. Her attacker was reportedly her daughter’s boyfriend and the motive, according to the family, was over custody of his three children. 

I put in really long hours on this story and what really stuck with me was the day of the incident I ran out and was speaking to the victim’s sister, who is also a teacher at the small private school, when a little boy and girl came up to her hugged and he said ,”We’ll pray for Miss Kellye.” 

Now I already knew the attack had taken place in front of children but it wasn’t until that moment, seeing that little boy and girl about the same age as my youngests that I was confronted with the fact that these children have forever been changed. 

The school has offered students and staff counseling and will ask for more if required but what does something like that do to the psyche of a child. That is a story I will hopefully explore but with the arrest, arraignment, prayer vigil and profile of the victim it’s been hard to do much else expect try to grab tidbits of breaking news here and there as I work on all these other pieces. 

I don’t have any insight or opinion, just wanted to share. 

Filed under journalism Women in Journalism working mothers homicide long beach california children psychology