The Foote Files: Covering Tragic News Stories
Since the beginning of radio and TV, broadcast journalists have been or will at some time in their career be faced with covering a story that has the potential and capability to affect them personally.
World War II was the first war covered by radio. CBS Radio News correspondent Edward R. Murrow and his team faced terrible conditions in London and witnessed horrific death and destruction inflicted by both Allied forces and the Germans. Radio is a medium of the mind and the reports coming back on the air were written with such detail to create pictures in people’s minds about what was going on. Walter Cronkite, who was a UP reporter then covering the war, also saw the horrible effects of war. These correspondents also have difficult living conditions as well and separated for months at a time from their loved ones.
Vietnam was the first war covered by TV. Even though the footage shown was delayed being shown several days after being shot as it was being flown back to the US for developing, it brought home the horrors of war in living color to American society in their living room for the first time in history.
While war coverage is certainly not easy to watch, Americans have had their share of tragic news on their own soil over the years: the Charles Manson murders in California, the assassination of President Kennedy, the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, and 9-11, to name a few. But the hardest ones to cover seem to be those involving children or random acts of violence, such as the school shootings at Columbine CO, the late night theatre shootings Aurora CO, and now the elementary school shootings in Newtown CT.
I am proud of how CBS News covered this story both as it was happening and also on the CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley. In the New York area, our local stations there, WCBS-TV, WCBS-AM NewsRadio 880, and 1010 WINS were also covering this story in the most professional manner possible while being sensitive to the very nature of what happened and utmost respect to those families affected. It’s hard enough to deal with these types of stories anytime, but particularly hard during the holiday season. And having worked in TV since 1978, I can assure you that those individuals who are charged with the task of covering stories like this do feel the effects personally. If you saw Walter Cronkite in 1963 delivering the news about the death of President Kennedy, you knew he was grieving with us inside but as a professional journalist, he got us through it.
From our family to your family, Happy Holidays to you all and may 2013 be a very happy new year for you. See you next time.
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