I’ve earned a nickname from my colleagues in the news business over the years and it’s not one I really relish, but nonetheless am stuck with.
At times I’m called Murder and Mayhem because of the obvious: The vast majority of my stories deal with, well, murder and mayhem.
I have also covered presidents, congressmen, local elected officials and the occasional community festival, but I have to admit there’s nothing like chasing down a crime story. That leads me to a question I am often asked.
How do I deal with covering tragedy?
To those who have asked me this unanswerable question I try my best to explain.
Let me first say, like every reporter in this business who covers their share of violent crime, I too have a heart and feel pain and anguish. I just don’t show it.
I would like to say I’ve grown immune to tragedy, but I’d be lying and I’m not going to do that.
What many people see of me while I’m standing there photographing a scene is a detached focus on documenting a crime scene or an accident.
I normally don’t become emotionally attached to victims. I learned to walk away and not dwell on what I’ve witnessed. Now, as I mentioned before, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never become emotionally overcome with grief.
I remember years ago a report came across my scanner where a 5-year old accidentally shot himself with his father’s gun. I got there a few minutes after emergency medical personnel arrived and while I was standing outside shooting video they carried this child from the house on a stretcher with his head bandaged.
I still recall videotaping his father hugging a friend and overcome with grief as he learned of his son’s death.
That is one time I had trouble looking through the viewfinder because tears streamed down my face.
Then there was the time a mother was notified her daughter was slain by her boyfriend in a mobile home park in Hinesville.
The body was discovered on a Monday when she failed to show up for early roll call on Fort Stewart. The woman’s daughter was with her slain mother until help arrived.
As detectives worked to process the scene, the victim’s mother held her granddaughter in her arms and quietly watched as officers worked inside and outside the mobile home, all while her daughter’s body still lay inside.
I normally don’t try to grab an interview with family members of victims out of respect. But the victim’s mother and I struck up a conversation when she learned why I was there.
I set up my camera and began taping, and during the course of our interview I marveled at how strong this woman was as she held her granddaughter and how my voice cracked as I asked her questions about the child she lost.
At the end of the interview it was hard maintaining my composure, yet this woman held it together.
I think for me it had a lot to do with the fact I had a daughter roughly the same age.
While we are often called heartless parasites - my favorite is "vulture" -nothing can be farther from the truth.
We care, more than the public realizes.
In any job you have to remain professional, though I confess I’ve failed many times.
Deep down inside, I grieve with you.
But when I’m asked how do I deal with what I’ve witnessed I can respond honestly.
It’s my job to bring you the news void of emotion. Many times I do so with a broken heart.