Menu

Tragic lessons, continued

“You all should be very proud of a great newspaper today,” said Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy. “That was a well-written straight news story with a better lead than ours. Phenomenal.”

Tragic lessons, continued

“You all should be very proud of a great newspaper today,” said Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy. “That was a well-written straight news story with a better lead than ours. Phenomenal.”

All that remained was ruin: shards of glass, bullets and bombs; broken human forms without life and breath; fragments of faith, hope and belief.

When I first heard about the shooting at Wedgwood Baptist, just a few miles from the TCU campus, I was stunned. As a student journalist and the editor-in-chief of the TCU Daily Skiff, I was also moved to action.

Were we going to cover it?
Were any TCU students involved?
Did it affect our readers?

I don’t think any amount of preparation in the classroom could have readied the staff — from editors to reporters to photographers — to answer ethical questions that were as important as our coverage: Would our stories be presented tastefully without needlessly dragging out the details of an already horrific situation?
What was our stance on reporting the stories of those who were grieving or dead?
What was our duty to readers?
Could we accurately portray the drama of the event?
Could our coverage be perceived as sensational?
What ethical decisions would I have to make?

What would come together — seamlessly, we hoped — as that Thursday issue began in a scurry of Skiffers at a college newspaper with little experience in this area?

Over three days, we carried stories on various angles of the Wedgwood shootings — police investigations, community and campus reactions and memorials. Each day my intention was for reporters and editors to collect pertinent information that would move the reader to grieve, wonder or draw their own conclusions about the tragedy.

Journalism is as much about reporting the news as it is about people. In the news- gathering process, numerous Skiff reporters talked to police, friends of the victims, students and other relevant sources.

Telling the story through photographs was touch-and-go. Capturing grieving persons on film can easily prompt criticism that journalism is intrusive, opportunistic and unfeeling. If someone didn’t want his or her picture taken, the request was honored.

And if that request was made even after a picture was snapped, it was also given the same consideration. In fact, after I was told that a woman in a photo that was chosen for the front page had said she didn’t want her image in the newspaper, I immediately pulled the photo.

When such an event threatens the idea of universal values — independence, family togetherness, caring for others and the pursuit of happiness, among others — a community can’t help but be thrown into shock and outrage.

Three months later, we continue to learn about and examine how the Wedgwood tragedy has affected this community.

As a human, I can only pray that it won’t happen again. As a journalist, I can only hope I always remember to embrace that sense of humanity.

Skiff Editor in Chief Jeff Meddaugh is a journalism senior from Broomfield, Colo.