Why must we be reminded of evil that still haunts this country?

by Mike Brannen

With each passing week, it feels somewhere, in some American city, an officer falls victim to gun shots. Journalists don’t have the luxury to ignore it and say “I’m not dealing with this today;” we have to face it head-on.

On Wednesday, it was our turn to cover a deadly police shooting (link). A Mendota Heights, MN police officer was shot in the head during a traffic stop. An 8-hour manhunt ensued, chock full of SWAT situations, chases, gun shots, and a terrified community. At the end of the ordeal, police say the suspect shot at officers, who then shot him. They took him to the hospital, and he is now in custody.

There are some cut and dry days in the news biz. But, we struggle through the dirtier and more depressing ones. When a story like this is constantly evolving, there is no time to digest the seriousness and gravity of what’s transpired. Feelings are temporarily repressed because the next deadline lingers, and there is no time to get caught up in emotion.

I was fortunate to participate in it all from the safety and comfort of my computer at KSTP-TV. My reporters, OUR reporters, bravely followed every move officers made. I cannot fathom lingering near an active crime scene where at any moment, BANG BANG, shots are fired. They are bold, they are risky, and they have brass.

After producing several cut-ins and updates, juggling live reporters and chopper coverage, and chasing the latest information, I finally left work for the night. I had spent hours in a fog, navigating toward whatever clarity in the story we could find. When I emerged, I felt defeated. The responsibility of covering inhumane activity is burdensome and exhausting. It is a weight that we journalists take upon ourselves for our own personal reasons, be it our duty as information dispensers, recorders of history, or merely for our own lurid curiosity.

The solace I take from this horrific crime is how the public reacts. Family, friends, strangers, everyday people, sharing a common response: this shouldn’t happen, and it shouldn’t happen to this guy. He was a standup officer, who now leaves behind a wife and two daughters.

Today, we empathize with law enforcement, and their sorrow. The last 24 hours have not been easy for them, and despite my grief, I imagine their hearts are heavier than mine. It is a loss they cannot replace.

We will mourn, but we will stay strong.

Officers, journalists, and the public.

Even in the face of evil, we will gather our strength to move on.

Mike Brannen is a morning newscast producer for KSTP, the ABC affiliate in Minneapolis-St.Paul. Before that, he was a producer at KIRO7 in Seattle, where he led the 4:30 a.m. show to a #1 share in the U.S. He received an MA in Broadcast Management from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2010 and received his Bachelor of Journalism degree the year before. He shares more about his life at mikebrannen.com and on Twitter: @MikeBrannen.

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