… It’s the first thing that came to mind as I watched an SUV that had been involved in a high-speed police chase slam into the sedan of an innocent victim during live coverage at the television station for which I work.
Our report had gone live from the newsroom, not the sanitary bubble of a controlled studio. At the moment of impact you could hear my coworkers in the background erupt into a collective “Oh no!”
As managing editor of the station’s website, I knew that I would have to shift gears from shocked human being to professional journalist. I knew that I would have to put my feelings aside to cover the news objectively. It’s what I do. It’s in my DNA. I also knew that during the hours to come I would have to watch the crash over and over again, because in television news, “the money shot” is the ultimate prize.
But the longer I’m in a business built around reporting life’s gritty moments, the harder it becomes to dismiss the fact that there’s a fine line between reporting and exploiting. And despite my love of news, these moments are getting harder and harder to treat as just another attention-grabbing-headline-and-soundbite-filled story.
The woman who died in the crash was not just a “subject who had been ejected from the vehicle,” as cop after cop would say during the news conferences that followed.
She was a mother who moments earlier had a life and a family who loved her. In a split second, her life had ended, and the lives of those who loved her would never be the same.
Money shots change people forever. Why is it so important to keep replaying them?
Would anyone stop to consider that woman’s children might find out about their mom’s death by watching the video on a friend’s phone during a break between classes? Would anyone in a newsroom want to see the death of one of their loved ones played out during the evening news?
Those questions haunted me throughout the afternoon as we continued to cover the story.
But am I really too old for this shit? Or is the questioning an indication of recognizing the tremendous responsibility to which I have been entrusted.
At the risk of waxing poetic, as journalists, it’s our responsibility to look beyond the events we report and uncover the lessons hidden within.
Seen from that perspective, I am not too old for this shit.
Life is fragile. Moments are precious. If you’re angry at someone, if you’re holding a grudge, if you’ve grown distant from people you love over something that hurt your ego, let it go. Because there are no promises that you will get another chance to say “I love you.” In an instant, they can be gone.
And there’s nothing worse than living with the regret of missed opportunities — of “what if’s,” — of knowing you could have lived and loved, but shit got in the way.