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A journalist tries to cope with Sandy Hook

Published 1:23pm Sunday, December 23, 2012

Column: Guest Column, by Abraham Swee

As a journalist, I have a curiosity problem. I also have an ego problem.

I love learning something new, and I certainly love being the first person to give you that information.

Every day I wake up thinking that something is going to happen — no matter how amazing, or dreary it really is — that I have the honor of learning about. Then, and here’s the fun part, I get to pass that knowledge onto someone else.

Rarely is there a story that I don’t want to tell. Rarely is there a story that hits so close to home that I’d like to just go home, rather than tell the story in the first place.

Abraham Swee

Dec. 14 was an exception.

I’ll be honest — on Dec. 14 I failed as a news junkie. I had worked the morning show at ABC5 — so instead of checking my twitter or ABC feed, I went to bed. I was in another world as our nation changed in mere minutes at Sandy Hook Elementary.

It wasn’t until I woke up that I felt the feeling of failure. I had missed the big story.

And it wasn’t until about an hour later, after taking in as much content as I could, that I realized this was a story I didn’t want to tell. That this was a story that should never have been told.

As a journalist, I live to inform. But I also work to make this world a better place. And therefore, instead of claiming success, on Friday night, I took a few moments to grieve. The world was not a better place on Friday — instead it was simply without 20 of its newest, most vulnerable members.

Over the weekend, a new feeling of dread slowly appeared — one that forced me to feel as if my own job was under attack. Comments by so many people blamed the media for this tragedy. In essence their posts online said that by glorifying previous shooters, journalists helped spur this latest act of senselessness.

Once again, I felt helpless. Did I really contribute to the heartbreak?

My resounding answer today, is no. I did not, nor did any of my colleagues, put a gun in that young man’s hand. It was not us, but an angry, violent person who took from this world so many, little miracles.

Yes, in the past I’ve been forced to report on some horrific events, and a lot of my time on the air has been spent on their perpetrators. But that’s my job, and it must continue to be. We must at least attempt to understand people who commit such acts… so that we can forge an attempt at a better future.

And while my viewers may try to place the blame on their informer, I urge them to remember that its my duty to tell a whole, complete story — from its beginning — no matter how horrible — all the way to the end. We must be an informed society to better our communities.

Finally, as I returned to work Monday, I was a bit distracted in my producing pod. I couldn’t help but think of my mother as she headed to school. Will she ever need to lock her second-graders in a closet? Would she ever need to act as a human shield to protect the students she loves and cares for so much? And more than anything, I hope she never has to show the bravery that the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary showed Dec. 14.

In any tragedy, I always believe the light outshines the dark. And that is the real reason I am a journalist. I tell the stories of heroes — stories of people that remind me good will always prevail. They are stories that may cause a few tears to trickle down my cheek, but they are also ones that restore my faith in humanity.

And so, while I will continue to tell this story of horrific tragedy — that part of the story is only the beginning. It is one, which when I take a step back, I realize is incredibly small.

It only takes a little light to brighten up a room. And that light, especially when the dark is so black, is practically blinding in itself.

 

Abraham Swee is a broadcast journalist and theatre professional currently residing in central Iowa. He is a recent graduate of Drake University and holds degrees in both musical theatre and broadcast news.