Lessons Learned from Tragedies

Working as a TV News producer, I talk to lots of people who have gone through horrible tragedies. These people graciously allow me and a photojournalist to come into their homes and talk about what usually is by far the worst day of their lives.  In the last few weeks, I have talked to family members who have lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks, as well as survivors and first responders of the San Bruno explosion. When anniversaries come up, part of my job is to tell their stories so we not only honor the victims and survivors, but also learn from these truly awful tragedies.

Talking to these people, I learn from them more than they’ll ever know. They teach me about the power of inner strength, love, and kindness, which helped them heal at least a little bit. They are on my mind when I interview government leaders and regulators about the mistakes and missed opportunities that led to their lives being forever changed.

These people have important stories, stories I hope you’ll take the time to watch and learn from as well. Below are links to a couple of stories I produced on San Bruno.



As I’ve been working this week, the girls would hear me talk about San Bruno and 9/11, but for them, these two anniversaries meant Mom was working a lot more than she usually does. So when I came home from work last night, I had them watch a few of the San Bruno stories with me and Van. If they learned just a fraction of what I’ve learned from these amazing people, I’ve done my job as a parent and a journalist.

A Risk I’m Not Willing to Take, but Glad Others Are

Back in Journalism School at the University of Missouri, I dreamed of covering  the biggest national and international stories. It may have been because the Gulf War happened as I was ready to embark on my senior year of high school. That war transformed the way journalists, broadcast journalists especially, cover war. It was something I wanted to be a part of, and one of the main reasons I went to journalism school.

I never ended up traveling the world following breaking news stories. Instead, I ended up in local news, usually staying close to home, trying to bring a local perspective to something that is often happening thousands of miles away.  This decision definitely made it easier on my family and personal life. This point was reinforced to me today as I listened to an NPR interview with New York Times photojournalist, Lynsey Addario.

Lynsey Addario of the New York Times

She’s one of four Times journalists who was taken captive for several days in Libya last month. It was a riveting interview, listening as she described her terrifying ordeal.  Addario was beaten, groped, and told on many occasions that she was going to die, once while a Libyan soldier was creepily stroking her cheek. That sounds about as bad as things can get, but Addario said the worst  part was the pain it caused her husband, parents, and sisters back in the States. While she was held in captivity, her family and husband had no idea if she was dead or alive. Now that she’s back home, Addario says one thing is certain. She will cover another war. She says, “It’s what I do.”

I give this woman a lot of credit, although it’s not something I could or would do, especially now that I have three young kids. Addario has risked her life for more than a decade to show the people and places directly impacted from war and other atrocities. However, since she’s been back, she’s been criticized for even stepping foot in a war zone because she’s a woman. Excuse me?!!! She has as much of a right as any male photojournalist to document a war. It’s not pretty. It’s dangerous, even deadly, but these stories need to be told, and she’s doing an amazing job. Everybody makes choices in life, and this is her choice, her passion, and I applaud her for taking on and succeeding at a job very few women even dream of attempting.

The release of Addario and her colleagues came about a week before their employer, The New York Times launched a controversial paywall. From now on, readers will be able to access 20 articles a month for free. After that, they’ll have to pay a subscription to access the newspaper’s website and smartphone and tablet apps. The Times’ publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.,  explained how and why the paper is making this move in a letter to readers. He wrote it’s a big step that, “we hope you will see as an investment in The Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform.” Not surprisingly, this decision has outraged many, many people. On one hand I can understand the anger. It’s a hard sell after getting something for free for so long.  However, after listening and reading more about the risks journalists like Addario take, I don’t think it’s unreasonable. I think it’s still a little pricey at $35 a month for unlimited access, but The Times needs to continue employing brave journalists who will cover the difficult stories. Since I’m not willing to go on the front lines, I’m appreciative that other people do it, and they need to be compensated for their sacrifices. This new paywall will help The Times continue to do just that.