Thursday, April 1, 2010
Concern for neighbors
Covering news in a small town can be really tough sometimes.
Such was the case Thursday morning of last week.
Someone came running into the office and said something like, “A car has run through the dentist office.”
Staff writer Sue Watson grabbed her camera and started walking the short distance just half a block away. I waited a few minutes and then followed – without camera.
Sometimes I get to thinking I’ve seen it all in my 25-plus years as a community journalist. But I’d never seen anything like this before.
Emergency vehicles were everywhere and still rolling to the scene on East Gholson Avenue. Concerned citizens were gathering, too.
I stood still a minute to try and get a grasp of what had just happened. Others had told me what they believed to have occurred, but the initial reports varied.
Then I talked briefly with a shocked and saddened Dr. John Jones, who is a friend, fellow Rotarian and neighbor (both from a business and home standpoint).
A vehicle had crashed into the waiting room of his dental office. One was killed. Others were injured.
I was stunned. Words cannot describe what this newspaper editor was feeling. I was hurting for all those involved, but at the same time, I knew I had a job to do. I had to run back to the office and get my camera to give Sue some assistance in covering the story.
By the time I returned, more and more concerned friends of those involved had gathered.
I shot photos – lots of photos – but the entire time my thoughts were on those I saw hugging and crying and trembling.
These were acquaintances and I was hurting for them and with them.
In a small community, we all know one another. We live near each other. Our children go to school together. We’re members of the same church. We work together. We’re in the same civic clubs and organizations. We’re family. We care about each other.
My thoughts also returned to a tragedy that occurred in April 2008. A house on Cuba Street exploded.
I had flashbacks to the night I approached that terrible Holly Springs scene. I had my camera, but to be honest, I had difficulty taking photos. Concern was on the faces of everyone at the scene.
Community journalism is so much different from big-city journalism.
I’ve been working at community newspapers since I was in high school. I got a journalism degree, but I’ve learned mostly by doing.
It’s my job. I like it. I cannot imagine doing anything else.
At The South Reporter, we have a responsibility to cover the news as fairly and accurately as possible. That task can be exciting, but it can also be cumbersome, particularly when it involves tragedy such as this community experienced last Thursday.
I drove to Indianola Thursday afternoon for a baseball game – another part of my job as a community journalist. But my mind was not on sports. My thoughts remained focused on what I had seen earlier that day.
The healing for those nearest last week’s tragedy will continue. We need to keep our friends, our neighbors and our community members in our prayers.
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