Reporter Lauren Boyer and I went to Newtown, Conn., on Friday night to help The New Haven Register and our parent company Digital First Media with coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Managing editor Randy Parker already blogged a write-up about why exactly two York, Pa., journalists were sent to cover a non-local tragedy, but once we got an idea of what we were dealing with in Connecticut, Lauren and I decided to — and were assigned to — report on stories outside the big story.
Saturday, we started out with a color piece in which we tried to profile Newtown as a town of its own merits, not as one defined by tragedy. Check out Lauren’s story here, and watch the video I produced to accompany it:
The next day was Sunday — the first day of church services after the tragedy. I was assigned last-minute to cover services at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, which is the largest church in town and a major focal point in the area. Afterward, Lauren and I worked on a story about funeral preparations, but here’s the video scene I produced of Sunday morning at St. Rose:
On Monday, we were told to report on acts of kindness inspired by the tragedy. We went to Monroe, a town seven miles south of Newtown. There, we found a church that organized a teddy bear drive, an elected official who told us that Newtown needs only prayers and a religious gift shop owner who offered up prayers. Lauren wrote up a story that summarized what people think Newtown needs versus what Newtown actually needs, and I produced two videos to accompany the story:
Our last working day in Connecticut was Tuesday, and I was finally assigned to cover funerals — two back-to-back services at St. Rose of Lima. Lauren, in the meantime, was reporting on a business story with another reporter, when she actually found a hair stylist who was scheduled to cut a victim’s hair on Saturday. Since I was covering that victim’s funeral in the morning, Lauren and I joined forces later in the day to interview the stylist for a video that could be paired with the business story and with the funeral story:
Driving into Connecticut on Friday, I was apprehensive about working in a state I hadn’t entered since I was five, alongside people I’d never met and on a story that deeply upset me as a person. I’ll share more personal reflections on my own blog, but suffice it to say that Lauren and I powered through four, 15-hour work days and held back our own tears until we returned to York yesterday.
I’m happy to have helped out another newspaper and our parent company, but I hope desperately that no such tragedy ever occurs again.