A reporter in Newtown: Everywhere we turn, we meet ‘gracious souls’

Editor’s note: Religion reporter John Hilton, who wrote the following post, is one of several YDR staffers who are or have been in Newtown helping the New Haven Register and Digital First Media cover the story.

I carried a lot of anxiety to Newtown.

I heard the stories about the meddlesome media and how we were not wanted here.

The ride up provided no comfort. The very first caller to Chris Russo’s 2 p.m. Sirius radio show attacked the media for “overkill.” I am used to this kind of blame-the-messenger routine, but this was different.

And I have realized that Newtown is different. There have been 31 school shootings since Columbine, but Newtown is something altogether new.

Only something this big could draw tears from the president. England’s Premier League soccer clubs wore black arm bands. Newtown led the news for two days in Japan. Paul Simon played “Sound of Silence” at Victoria Soto’s funeral.

This is big. Russo played “Sound of Silence” yesterday and broke down on the air.

“This has to be the last time,” he said through tears.

I started Wednesday covering Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung’s wake. The anxiety quickly disappeared after the first two people I interviewed thanked me for covering the story.

Everywhere we turn, my colleagues and I are confronted by gracious souls. Last night, one of the cleaning women at our hotel thanked YDR reporter Rebecca LeFever for her efforts. A psychologist staying here offered her services if anyone on staff needed grief counseling.

And I’m just going to say it: I’m proud of the media. Yes, there were missteps on Friday as all sorts of misinformation was reported. But the dogged determination ever since to be a leader for change is inspiring.

I’m not going to get into the issues. We all know what they are. This has a chance to be a crucial moment in history.

And I’m proud of America for paying attention. I listen to Russo’s five-hour show every day and he has talked of little but Newtown since Friday.

Unremarkable until you consider that Russo hosts an all-sports show. Whenever he tries to do sports, it’s the callers who return to Newtown.

So the next time you get angry, annoyed or frustrated with the wall-to-wall coverage of Newtown, remember that it’s that big.

 

About Scott Blanchard

Sunday editor at the York (Pa.) Daily Record/Sunday News. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.
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