Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Facing breaking news from the other side

Something serious happened last night. Not in Saline or Washtenaw County- but in Mount Pleasant, the city I reside in nine months out of the year, as a student at Central Michigan University.

There was a fatal shooting at a bar called The Cabin near CMU's campus.

I got a text message from a friend about a possible shooting at the local restaurant/bar. As a reporter for Central Michigan Life, I did what any reporter would do: forwarded it over to Central Michigan Life's Editor-in-Chief, Eric Dresden. He replied simply, "Yeah I'm here. It's bad Randi."

Even though I was in Grand Rapids, away from the scene and not involved with the development of the story, the shooting still impacted me as a reporter, especially since I work for Central Michigan Life during the school year.

The shooting also impacted me as an employee of The Cabin, the bar the shooting occurred at.

I have covered breaking news before. I've covered a fatal car crash and interviewed the father of the victim at the scene. This, on the other hand, was different.

I was afraid. My coworkers were in that building. My friends- work family. People I know, care about. Putting a face, multiple faces even, with a shooting is terrifying. It's not just a job anymore, covering breaking news. It's real.

After a terrifying drive home with a dead cell phone battery, not knowing what was going on, I tore through the front door toward my laptop and my phone charger. I found out all my coworkers were physically safe and unharmed, and then the second emotion began to jump in. Confusion.

One of my coworkers updated her Facebook status, stating that CM Life was the most "disrespectful, rude, awful publication ever" for the way the reporter and photographer at the scene covered the shooting.

This is the first time I've ever been able to somewhat put myself in a sources shoes, and gain a little bit of understanding as to how they feel after an incident this large.

When the building you work in has just been shot up, the last thing you want to do is submit to photographs and interviews from the media. When you've been working on a production day for 12 hours to put a newspaper together, the last thing you want to do is work for another three hours, covering a fatal shooting. It can't be easy for either party.

There's nothing illegal about interviewing and photographing witnesses to a murder. It's a touch insensitive, but necessary. How else is news going to be reported? This just struck me as different because it's the first time I've ever had a glimpse into the shoes of a crime witness, instead of looking at the situation from a reporter's angle.

I'm interested to see what further experiences similar to this one my career will bring.

This is the updated link to Central Michigan Life's story on the fatal shooting that occurred last night at The Cabin in Mount Pleasant, Mich.:


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