Saturday, December 20, 2008

Covering the Memorial Service

My previous post discussed the sad story of the Hawkins family of Woodstock, Ontario, who were tragically killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in their home thanks to a blocked fireplace vent.

Because I don't get the same dose of local news outside of my work days as I do when I am there, I managed to miss the announcement of Laurie's passing until the following day, thus the reason why my previous message didn't include information of her passing.

This past Tuesday I got an e-mail from my supervisor asking me to cover an evening event on Wednesday that no one else was able to cover. The event, a memorial service for Provincial Constable Laurie Hawkins and her family. Without hesitation, I accepted the chance to be there.

To those of you who have never worked in the media industry, let me suggest that anyone journalist struggles with one of these, no matter how seasoned they are. Sure, some may have a better ability to hide their feelings, or are able to detach themselves from it, but it is still a difficult story to write and report. There is a sensitivity that must be observed, interviews are hard to come by, emotions throughout are running high. And yet, in spite of all of this, the story must be told.

Having said that, I struggle worse than most. Perhaps because of my upsetting coverage of the events of 9/11, or the engraved memories of the elder abuse scandal, but sometimes, it just isn't that easy for me not to feel the emotion of a story. The tragic circumstances that percipitate the need to assign a reporter to coverage of a memorial service could also explain the reason why. Or perhaps, I just haven't experienced it enough.

For 45 minutes I stood at the back along reporter's row, furiously listening to capture the quotes that could truly express the night's deepest emotions. Several former co-workers shared their experiences with Constable Hawkins, whose work as the OPP's Community Relations officer in Ingersoll made her the true focus of the service. After all, people had lost a dear friend and a strong advocate for the youth of the small town. If the words weren't enough, the faces that accompanied them told what was left to be said.

At the end of the night, as I sat at my laptop trying to make sense of it all, I found myself looking around to figure out if I had actually captured a true sense of it all. I started to realize that it wasn't my abilities, or lack there of, as a journalist that were making the stories so slowly to craft. What I was beginning to realize that I had no reference point. I have seen loved ones come and go, some very close, and some very distant. But I was feeling the need to reference a time or a place for the moment that could parallel this time. And it wasn't there. Not because I couldn't think of it. Because it didn't exist.

I'm glad my supervisor and my boss were happy with my reports. I'm still not sure if they truly were quality reports. But how can you truly express an emotion, a sense, a loss, a tragedy, if you have never felt it yourself???

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