Working at a newspaper made me paranoid.
In the years I spent in the newsroom, I shared space with a police scanner. A police scanner that was always on (well, except for when someone would turn it down so they could watch the latest episode of the news or Lost or Elimidate …)
And in being around a police scanner for 8-10 hours a day, I learned something I wish I hadn’t learned: Bad stuff happens. All the time.
In addition to the big stuff that does make the news, there were always car accidents, heart attacks, car accidents, robberies, or car accidents.
And so, every time I would have plans to meet someone and they’d be running a few minutes late, I’d be a few minutes panicked.
Or if I called someone and they didn’t call me back right away, I’d say a little prayer that they were okay.
I knew my worry was unhealthy. And I justified the constant scanner chatter by telling myself that bad stuff had always happened all the time, I was just aware of it now. And that awareness was a good thing. I could be a better driver, a healthier eater, a better exerciser – anything it takes to be more careful out there.
Let’s just say I had very short fingernails during that time of my life. (Okay, not just because of the scanner – in general, my job was high stress at times …)
The good thing about working for a newspaper was that I felt like I was doing a small part to help with these bad things. When horrible things happened, it was my job to write the headlines. To design the pages. To choose the photographs that would help to tell the story. And I felt like I was contributing a small piece of healing to the victims, to the people that needed to know, to the world (or at least the tri-county area.) The more tragic the story, the more love I put into piecing it together.
I’ve been gone from the industry two years, as of last month. And when bad things happen, there’s still a part of me that’s ready to spring to action.
Newshungry journalists can come across as uncaring and cold sometimes. Yesterday on Facebook, I saw a former colleague touting how much she loves breaking news stories. Another status touted the “shootings, crashes …” It was a big news day for my former employer – among other news, two police officers had been shot and injured.
And I saw Amy, on Twitter, giving off caring and worrisome vibes for those police officers – police officers that her state trooper husband likely works with. And even if he doesn’t, it could have been him and Amy knows it.
A slight difference in perspective, one might say.
Am I suggesting the journalist is wrong? Not exactly. With every piece of breaking news, it’s a fact of life there is an excitement associated with getting photographers and reporters on the scene, getting details onto the web as quickly as possible, and putting all of the pieces together for the next day’s paper. It’s spring-int0-action time over there.
But in that rush to get the facts, let’s not forget that with every big story there is likely a victim, or victims, and families who are grieving or worrying or wondering why their son is running a few minutes late or not returning their calls.
I’m glad I don’t work in that environment anymore. And I’ve relaxed my paranoia about where my friends and family are at any given moment. I have fingernails again.
But as soon as I start to relax, I get a reminder – I hadn’t heard from my brother all day Monday, which is unusual because we talk daily, but I wasn’t too worried – I figured he got busy with work and family stuff. Until he called me on Tuesday to tell me he’d been in an accident in which he wasn’t hurt but his car rolled over and did a 360 and ended up totaled.
Thank God it wasn’t bad enough for him to make the news.