It was a disorienting Wednesday morning on Twitter.
My eyes and thumbs perused the normal banter of old high school friends, article links tossed out by the slew of environmental journalists I follow for Earth updates.
And then something stopped me momentarily in my scrolling.
I read that wrong, I assume.
I see the same headline a few tweets above. Another shocking jolt. Another gasp of disbelief.
“Ex-Broadcaster Kills 2 on Air in Virginia Shooting” –– The New York Times confirms my doubts, my suspicions that what I read earlier was, in fact, true.
The next morning in one of my lectures, we do what every journalism program in the country should have done, and that is talk about the on-camera shooting of two Virginia journalists, practicing the very craft we are destined to replicate.
“Does this tragedy affect your desire to become journalists?” my professor asks us. We’re all a little shell-shocked, to be sure –– but even more-so after viewing the contested Thursday morning front page of the New York Daily News.
I have to admit, as I sat there gaping at the horrific images splashed across the Daily News’ front page in tabloid-like fashion, I didn’t know what to think. I knew becoming a journalist wasn’t exactly the relaxing desk-job bankers and secretaries enjoy.
But I always assumed journalists got themselves in trouble by entering a war-torn area unadvised, or putting themselves in the midst of a dangerous mob. What happens now, when there is absolutely no way to prepare for this outcome? How do you ever rationalize this kind of situation until you’re okay to keep pressing on? Are journalists ever truly safe from harm?
To tap into a philosophical vein: no, we as journalists, as fragile human beings, will never be okay. We will never be able to assure our safety, even in our own hometowns. There are accidents, there are wrong-places-at-wrong-times. There are tragedies.
But we carry on.
We carry on for Alison Parker and Adam Ward, and for all of those who have lost their lives practicing their passion.
Because, ultimately, we journalists are serving the public –– and the public will never stop needing the assistance, the intelligence, and the know-how of journalists.
There are days, like today, when it may seem impossible to continue feeding the beast that is our news-engaged society. But there are days when the thrill of journalism will triumph over all other human suffering and strife.
Let us continue to keep fighting, to keep digging, to keep exploring the world, for Alison and Adam. Let us remember those who have fallen, but let us also remember those who have finished admirable careers as the storytellers we one day hope to become.
Today, take a moment of silence for Alison and Adam, for the struggles our profession has faced and the struggles we will inevitably face in the future.
And then, with heavy hearts, let us carry on.
Bethany N. Bella is studying Journalism, Environmental Studies and Cultural Anthropology at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.
The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.