Bring back the news job I signed up for

Published 10:04 am Thursday, April 25, 2013

Column: Guest Column, by Abraham Swee

I sincerely hope I won’t soon make a living as a post-tragedy inspirational writer. In the last year, though, I could probably have done fairly well.

Between numerous shootings, bombings and police hunts, the position wouldn’t have been easy. And that is no joking matter. Keeping the details straight from one disaster to the next is, in reality, already a challenge.

Abraham Swee

Abraham Swee

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The media has enough follow-up events — sentencings, hearings, arraignments and anniversaries stemming from the last year — to keep us busy through the next decade. And while I need news to happen for my job to exist, this is not what I had in mind.

Journalists live to break the next big story, but if I’m right — and I think I may be on to something here — we’re getting tired of what seems to be the new norm.

I didn’t sign up for this. I signed up to tell the cute baby polar bear story. Or about the brother who saves his sister by donating his kidney. Or about the 1968 Boston Marathon champion who decided to run again this year.

But I can’t. I cannot tell those stories. We simply don’t have the airtime or print space for them. Tragedy seems to have taken over quite permanently.

Any good writer knows every column should include a call to action. Mine’s appearing a little early, but here it goes anyway: Let me do my job. The job I signed up for.

Clear the way for the news I should be telling. Renew our society by ensuring a place that fosters creation instead of destruction. Breathe new life into old laws. And come together to realize the American dream.

As a TV journalist, I can’t tell you how to do that. I cannot say what policies to take up and what bills should be signed into law. That’s someone else’s job.

But I can alert you to a growing trend: 20 kids dead in a school, a U.S. representative shot on a street corner, an ex-cop targeting his former coworkers.

Sitting idly by will not help me tell that polar bear story. Playing a game of political impasse will not change my lead story tomorrow. To do my job — the way I first envisioned it — people must act.

In a couple of weeks I will run in the Drake Relays, one of the premier track and field events in the country. I’m not sure I’ll best my half-marathon time from last year, but I plan on giving it a good go.

I must admit, for a moment, I thought about canceling. Could my life be in danger? Will another attack rock a once joyful finish line?

It’s quite possible, I suppose. Then again, I’m willing to take that risk. For I know there are people in this country working to stop that tragic headline, working to take heartbreak out of my newscast — safely locking it in the past.

My former ABC5 coworker and running partner was one of those who ran the Boston Marathon this year. She didn’t get to finish. Instead, two bombs went off as she passed the 24- mile marker. Police told her to keep running. She was stopped just one mile before reaching the blast site.

So many people already have stories like that, stories that hit too close to home, stories that are far too close for comfort. And while I hate to throw in another cliché, I feel I must: It appears only to be a matter of time before all of us have that appalling story to tell.

So stop them. I’ve officially alerted you to my problem — our problem. Bring us back to a time when the media could focus on life, instead of death.

I realize my job will not be restored to all of its glory overnight. There is much work to be done. But that is not an excuse to stall or give up.

Our society must not only confront the problems before us, it must act. My colleagues and I will continue to do our part: working tirelessly to provide the information needed to form actions. But society must act for itself.

Bring on the panda bears, kidney miracles and cancer survivors. And bring them back soon.


Abraham is a news producer at ABC5 News in Des Moines. He is a native Albert Lean and graduated from Drake University in 2011. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC5 News, WOI-TV.