behind the scenes

Flipping the Switch

2:29:00 PM

Cold. Detached. Emotionless. All words I've heard used to describe people who work in this business. It's usually based off of the way they appear on TV or the tone of their writing - seemingly without feeling.

Not too long ago, one of our up-and-coming reporters talked about flipping the switch. She's recently moved into the slot of number one fill-in anchor and hasn't quite  mastered the art of distancing herself from the stories she's reading.

It's not easy to do. When you work in a smaller place, it's easy to get attached to the people who live there. If you're from the place you're reporting in, it can be even harder to distance yourself from stories. But it's something I think most people in this business would agree is a good practice.

If you can't separate your feelings from the story you're telling, chances are you're not telling it fairly. Our job is to let the viewers/readers make up their own minds about the stories we report. Our feelings shouldn't be part of it.

There's also the matter of your own sanity. You've got to know when to flip the switch back on. Just because you don't let the stories get to you while you're on the air, doesn't mean those stories don't have an effect on you. You can't just flip the switch to your emotions off and leave it there. You've got to deal with it eventually. I talked about dealing with the stress of the job HERE.

So how do you know when to flip the switch? I think it's different for every journalist.

In my first year of being in the real world of journalism, I wrote the hardest story I've ever written to date. A teacher who worked with my mother shot and killed his wife and his son. The story rocked me to my core. At the time I was working the overnight shift as the morning show producer. I cried most of that night. I haven't cried over a story we've covered since then, at least not at work.

Maybe that sounds harsh, but it's really the only way I know how to survive the horrible stories we cover day in and day out. If I didn't flip the switch on my feelings, I'd never make it through the day.

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