Breaking News And The Faith Of A Child

It’s been quite a week for breaking news in Memphis.  Sunday night an officer involved shooting in Mississippi, officer flown to the MED. Tuesday it was a helicopter crash that killed THREE people.  Thursday, an active shooter at National Guard Armory in Millington, then a homicide and a house explosion.  Saturday a deputy involved shooting in Tipton County.

It was a BUSY week and a reminder that we are all human.  And that sometimes it’s VERY hard to report on the events in our city.  But it also reinforces the importance of news media.  People often give us a bad rap for covering “bad news” but this week was a classic case of the need to cover it anyway, to be the first and sometimes only people relaying information back to the public.  At one point, even national media outlets were looking to us for INFO.  It’s important stuff, even if it’s NOT good.

BUT that’s not the point of this blog, the point is to talk about one story I did this week, in the midst of the chaos, that shows the simplicity of a child and how much we can learn from their words.

One of the breaking news events was a helicopter crash that killed three. Hospital Wing pilot Charles Smith, Pedi-Flite nurse Carrie Barlow, and Pedi-Flite respiratory therapist Denise Adams were on their way to pick up a patient from a hospital in Bolivar when the helicopter went down near Somerville, TN.  They all died on impact. 

Charles Smith, was 47-year-old pilot and began his career at Hospital Wing in 2012. He retired from the aviation unit of the Memphis Police Department in 2012, after 25 years of service. He left behind a wife and TWO kids.  They attend St. Ann’s Catholic School in Bartlett. FAITHOFACHILD

I got wind that the school was making cards for the family. Thursday morning I went to a 4th grade classroom while they were making their cards.  The words of wisdom were so full of faith I had to pass it along:

“I hope your family won’t be that sad after you read this, we are always praying for you.”

“We are all saying a prayer for you.”

“I know how you feel. I lost my dad, too. Just know God will always love you and your dad will always love you, too.”

“Just remember God is watching over your family.”

“We will keep you in our prayers.”

“We love you and we’re praying for you.”

Keep in mind these kids are in 4TH GRADE!! Their words were so genuine and heartfelt. It brought a tear to my eye.  And then made me think about how much we could learn from their words.  If we had the faith of a child how easy would it be for us to trust God and follow his will?  Sometimes growing up makes life complicated and the more we learn the more we lose the gift of simple faith.  Luke 18:17 says: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

This week, these kids reminded me to keep it simple when it comes to faith.  Trust God, know I’m not alone and keep going back to him for comfort and guidance.

It was a crazy week, with a lot of tragedy.  But I can only hope that everyone hit by the tragedies can remember what I learned from these 4th graders.

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Seeing God (and Good) In Everything

Disclaimer: this blog is very different from my last. Well maybe not very…just a different topic. 🙂

So I started reading a new book a few months back. I know what you’re thinking (if you know me)…what Lauren started a new book and she still hasn’t finished it? Yea, welcome to my life. I don’t have a long attention span.

BUT this one is really interesting. It’s called “A Jesuit Guide To (Almost) Everything” and it’s really interesting so far. It keeps me coming back. Even if its been a few weeks.

It is written by a Jesuit priest and explains their perspective on faith. I find a lot of their perspectives to be very helpful for me, a modern day Catholic.

First and foremost I love this line: “God can be found in the everyday events of our lives. God is not just out there. God is right here, too. If you’re looking for God, look around.”

I think that is so true in today’s world and as a journalist, I find this so true in my everyday life. I meet new people everyday. Many of them inspire me. I have the opportunity to tell their stories with is often very humbling.

What’s even more humbling: knowing that god puts people in our lives and vice versa. There is power in that. And of course tremendous responsibility. Something we can easily fall short of in our daily grind.

Still I find hope in striving to see God in everything and everyone. And if you’re reading this and don’t believe in God, lets change it to “see GOOD in everything and everyone”.

Pass it on!

You Don’t Know Me…But You Think You Do

Aside

This is a tough business, television news. It’s cut throat, you must have thick skin and the way it’s changing all the time, you have to be ready for whatever it throws you.  I believe it takes a special person to handle all that comes with it.  The criticism, the e-mails from viewers, the times you spend so much time on a story and it hardly gets noticed by anyone.  But then there are the stories you are assigned, that get thousands of views and comments and then you start getting harassed. Those kind of stories I wish I didn’t have to do but because of the people in this world, it becomes a story.
That kind of story is what’s on my mind as I write this blog.  I think it’s not a blog about my job or the story itself, it’s a blog about how people sit behind their Twitter handles and their FB names and shout big bully statements on social media.  They probably feel better about themselves in the process, while putting others down and insulting the very things they stand for.
Case in point, a recent story I was assigned on Saturday about a haunted corn maze in Memphis. Friday night someone posted a photo on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  I was tagged in several of those comments and asked to do a story on a photo that many were calling offensive.  I responded, as I always do, by asking for more details and asking those who posted or shared the photo to e-mail me with information.  I believe it would have been irresponsible for me to not respond. By Saturday morning I had been contacted by 6 people, two of which had already contacted the station.  Before I even got up on Saturday I had been assigned the story. Now, I’m not going to get into the story because someone will likely take the story out of context and take away the point of this blog. But I will say the story hit an issue on the hearts and minds of many people in the mid-south.
Following the story, which I told fairly (equal soundbites from both sides), thousands of people commented, read and watched the story.  It really turned into a bigger deal than expected.  And now it’s all coming back on me; the reporter whose name was attached to the story.

I made the mistake of reading some of the comments on FB.  People (who don’t even know me) say the most hateful things:

“You reported an incredible slanted story,” said Laura A.

“I know you need to throw your name out there, but have some respect for yourself. I cannot believe it was your story.  I have seen some desperate moves in my life, but that was terrible.  Your name will be viewed very differently by many intelligent people. What a shame,” said Tucker P.

“I mean, I get it. Your job market is extremely competitive, and you probably don’t have any real journalistic talent; but please stop writing stories like that. What ends up happening is people become even more entrenched in this racial Cold War. Journalists like you are what is wrong with our media. And our media is one of the many things dragging our country into the dirt,” said Ryan E.

If you read those little excerpts of what I have been dealing with in the last two days you’ll probably see a pretty common theme.  PEOPLE making assumptions about ME and insulting my character.

The reaction to the story is one of the reasons I get so frustrated with people in our society.  If you don’t like something, do something to fix it.  Get off your butt, get off your phone, get away from your social media alias and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.  Don’t bully and insult from your hiding place behind the screen. Social media has the power to do so much good and CHANGE THE WORLD.  Yet “we” sit behind it and post pictures of what we had for dinner and what makes us mad.  Then we post inflammatory comments on it thinking that it’s OKAY to say the things we say.

Whatever happened to a FACE TO FACE conversation?  What ever happened to having respect for one another and believing that every person deserves to be treated with dignity? What ever happened to all the principles that Memphis leaders fought to instill in us?  And here we are years later doing the same thing we did back then but from behind a wall called social media.  It’s cowardly, it causes division and it’s not going to make Memphis or the world a better place.

To the people who commented below, I say this “You don’t know me, you don’t know what I stand for and you have no right to say that I did a story to “get my name out there.”  How dare you say I have no journalist talent, I’ve worked hard to get where I am and I take pride in standing up for what’s right. I can’t speak for every journalist but there’s a reason WHY I give up holidays with my family and weekends with my friends to stay in this career.  If you’re wondering, it’s not to BE ON TV.  If that was the case I would have left a long time ago.  You see people think we do this to be on tv, but that’s because they think it’d be cool to be on TV.  It’ not about that for me. It is about telling people’s stories, giving a voice to the voiceless, standing up for what’s right, inspiring others and trying to make a difference in the community and the world.  So don’t hide behind your screen and tell me I’m only in it for me.  You don’t know me.”

I am a news reporter, I report on stories that I am assigned.  I do all of them because THAT’S MY JOB.  Sometimes I get to pursue stories of my choosing, that I want to tell or investigate. Sometimes, I am assigned something different.   At my station (and at most where I have worked) the whole news team collaborates to determine what it most relevant to our viewers on a given day.  It is not up to me or any single person to decide what is on the news and what is not.  And if we believe someone has an issue in our community (whether you (personally) think it’s an issue or not), we will at least be the ones to listen and then pursue both side of the story. Contrary to popular believe, journalism is not state my opinion, it’s portraying both sides and letting the viewer decide.

I am a reporter but it does not define me. What defines me are my morals and values, my family, my faith and my experiences.  I stand up for what’s right, I believe in integrity and I will NOT let anyone bully me through social media by telling me I am not a real reporter, that I wanted to get my name out there OR that it’s journalists like me that ruin the news.  People ruin the news, by doing and saying the things they say.

I stand by my beliefs, I try and I hope that most of my stories inspire others to do the same.  I can’t report about sunshine and rainbows all the time, because unfortunately that’s NOT reality.  And until it is reality, I’ll keep doing what I’m assigned. And I’ll do it with compassion and understanding NO MATTER WHAT THE SUBJECT.

So stop bullying and harassing…and DO SOMETHING THAT CHANGES THE WORLD FOR THE BETTER!!!