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Commentary: Reporting on tragedy offers different perspective on life

I’ve been an editor at The Lantern for a little more than a year now, and I can safely say in that time I have written and edited more stories about tragedies involving Ohio State students than I’d like to remember. A year more experienced, a year wiser and a year tougher, it doesn’t get any easier.

In the past year I’ve written about students getting hit by cars, bicycles, dump trucks and trains. Violent crimes and horrible accidents have found their places on the front page of The Lantern under my byline.

I’ve talked to a mother the day after her son passed away and a family who had just found out their loved one would never be able to walk again.

While I didn’t know any of these people personally, for a few days while reporting or a few minutes on the phone, I was a part of their lives at a lowest-low. People say journalism captures the highs and the lows of a person’s life, but not normally the in-between. The everyday, the ordinary are lost to the world but kept as personal memories treasured by the individual who lived them.

These stories are not why I got into journalism, but they are stories that need to be told. They help a community heal, they present answers to the questions that needed to be asked and they complete the civic duty of providing public information.

While reporting about an accident or someone recently deceased, it’s amazing to see the love expressed by those affected. I’ll read through Facebook posts and tweets so touching it breaks my heart.

But what underlies some of those are regrets. Regrets because maybe that individual didn’t know how much they were loved, how much they meant to everyone, and now they are gone or in danger of never knowing just what they mean to others.

There is something that can be learned from all this: Celebrate the ordinary.

Hug your friends a little tighter. Call your grandparents. Catch up with old friends — don’t put it off because you think you’re too busy. Make time for fun and laughter. Tell people you love them and always be kind. Don’t throw away a relationship over petty arguments. See things from another point of view and agree to disagree. Thank your parents. Reach out when you know someone is having a hard time. Walk your dog. Compliment and appreciate the people in your life. Don’t be afraid to be the first person to say “I’m sorry.” Do what you like to do, treat yourself, and others.

Don’t live another day without kindness and compassion, these severely underrated traits. In college we spend so much time focusing on the future, we often forget about the here and now. The truth is we never know what the future will hold, regardless of how much planning and forethought goes into that blueprint.

Love and appreciate the people in your life because you never know when they could be taken from you, or you from them. Celebrate and cherish those who have been a part of the ordinary, unreported memories.

3 comments

  1. Very good piece. I can’t agree with your sentiments enough. I still remember every awful moment of having to cover a fatal housefire one night in 2004 during my tenure at the paper.

    Aaron Stollar

  2. So now I’m sitting here in Thompson crying. Thanks Kristen.

  3. WONDERFULLY and BEAUTIFULLY written!! And, in case I haven’t said it in a while, I LOVE you!! -Aunt Cinda

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