As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, an integral part of Reporting on Traumatic Events is following one news topic during the entire semester. Mine happens to be “shootings in a public place with multiple victims,” excluding terrorist attacks. That leaves school shootings and church shootings. Lucky me.
In order to follow this topic, my professor asked us to set up Google Alerts on our assigned topic (others included suicide, bullying with violent consequences, landslides, flooding, etc.). So now, every day, I get two emails a day listing the top news stories for school and church shootings around the world.
My inbox is not a happy place.
In the 14 months since the Newtown shooting, there have been 44 shootings in schools. These include fatal and nonfatal assaults, suicides and unintentional shootings. 49 percent had at least one fatality, totaling 28 deaths.
That’s one shooting every 10 days. According to ThinkProgress’ math in a Jan. 23 article, there was a shooting every other school day in the first two weeks of the spring semester.
In mid-January at a middle school in Roswell, N.M., a seventh-grader opened fire on his classmates in the school’s gym, critically injuring two students.
A seventh-grader. Younger than my little brother.
I don’t understand.
I’ve been skipping out on posting about my news topic for weeks (sorry, Katherine) for that exact reason: I don’t understand it.
I don’t want to destroy every privately owned gun in America. I just want it to be harder for seventh graders to get theirs hands on one. I want desperation because of cruelty in schools to lead to counseling and kindness, not a massacre. I want to never, ever, ever write a school shooting headline.
If I was a breaking news reporter, I would be horrified to go on the scene of a shooting. How do you objectively report on an issue you have such strong political opinions about? How do you represent the overwhelming grief of a parent who has lost a child? How do you tell the stories that need to be told in order to elicit policy changes without intruding on a community enduring a tragedy?
I am hopeful, but I don’t know if any training can adequately prepare a journalist to write about a school shooting. They are a tragedy unlike almost any other, and I feel as though even the best laid plans for dealing with trauma will fall flat when up against children shot in schools.
Here’s to hoping I never have to cover one because they stop happening, not because I am too terrified to tell stories of sadness.