The Art of Reporting on a World That’s Falling Apart
Never look at social media in the morning, and other sanity-preserving advice from a hyperlocal journalist
Try not to look at social media first thing in the morning. That’s probably terrible practice for a journalist, but to get through the rest of the day, news is off the table when you wake up. Good news, bad news: You don’t want any of it this early.
Save all that anger and worry for when you get into work. You want to bottle it up, shake it a little, and then pour it out on the messages left on social media — to use it as fuel, to power through the injustices. On a local level (and on a good day), that often means combing through messages from people asking you to report on trash cans left uncollected for weeks, nuisance neighbors, beloved pets gone missing, stolen work tools, or park vandalism.
On a bad day, your emails are stuffed full of police press releases detailing shootings, robberies, stabbings, stolen items of irreplaceable sentimental or material worth. Sometimes it’s missing person notices that morph into appeals, then into search parties.
The best days end with a police amendment stating that a person has been found, safe. The worst days end with a statement to the media asking that the family’s privacy be respected at this difficult time. Take a deep breath and update the news of the appeal from the website. Try to school your emotions away from the source material and look at the story objectively, rather than going over all the dark pieces of it, imagining how you would feel if it was someone you knew personally. Hit publish. Think about the family affected at night, the next day, and the rest of the week anyway.
When you come home, and your mum insists on watching the national and global news headlines at 10 p.m., do your best to not get riled up about that, too. Watch how strange and uncertain everything is and feel the tightness form at the back of your throat. If you’re like me, a journalist with an anxiety disorder, hardwired for catastrophic thinking, focus on your breathing for a bit and then go to bed.
Sleep is hard to come by. You’re too busy thinking about what will happen if the world continues at the speed…