And some are asking why.
Why would a news organization that prides itself on local focus send staff five hours away? Some have wondered if we are chasing glory in this assignment, if we are exploiting unthinkable grief for profit or ego.
Here’s why we are there.
The York Daily Record/Sunday News is part of Digital First Media. This is a large company — the second-largest newspaper company in America. However, it is made up of many small newsrooms. Several of those small newsrooms are in Connecticut.
From our own tragic experiences here in York County, we know how difficult it can be to give a story of such scope the attention it deserves. Every corner of a community is affected. Every person has a story to tell. And most of them want to tell their story. To friends, to family, to strangers on a bus.
People also have countless questions they need answered. What, exactly, happened? Who, precisely, has been affected? What’s next? Why did this bad thing happen and could anything have been done to prevent it? How can I help?
The only way to get at such questions and answers is to start reporting. The only way to capture feelings that are too often described as “indescribable” is to start taking pictures.
In this case, the staff of the New Haven Register needed help with these important duties. The YDR had Boyer and Dunn on the road by 5 p.m. Friday. Other DFM newsrooms around the East Coast also sent people. By Saturday, the Register had a remote newsroom set up in Newtown.
Daily Record Editor James McClure also headed up to Connecticut Friday night. In addition to his important work here at YDR, McClure serves as DFM’s East Editor. He coordinates communication and efforts between all of our newsrooms on the East Coast. So in this case, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was in Jim’s coverage area.
One of the last things I told Boyer and Dunn before they pulled out of our parking lot was, essentially, this: “As of right now, you are working for the New Haven Register. You do whatever they need you to do. If that means you cover the ribbon cutting at a community park, you jump right in. Because in doing so, you will free up another reporter to cover the shooting. No assignment is beneath us.”
We are in Connecticut to help a member of our corporate family. We are there to help the people of Connecticut be seen and heard — understood and comforted — in their hour of need. We are there to help ensure that everyone has the chance to share their stories, if they want to.
I am proud of my team for so quickly upending their lives to go help people they’ve never met. There is a small part of this assignment that will seem like an adventure. But this is hard work. Mentally and spiritually draining work.
We do this work not because we want to talk with people at the worst moments of their lives. We do this work because people need us to.