jenna morton she said times transcript

She Said: Localize the Story

I once gave a phone interview to a news agency from my basement. It’s where I was, along with my husband and our three small children, on the morning of June 5, 2014. I was the ‘local angle’ for my hometown media, trying to share with their audience what was happening in the wake of the RCMP shooting.

I watched similar ‘local angle’ stories appear in the news this week, sharing New Brunswickers’ descriptions of what has happening in Las Vegas and Edmonton. As a journalist I’ve worked on such stories, reaching out to find someone ‘local’ to a situation that is grabbing national and international headlines. Like most people, I read them, too.

But we, both journalists and audience, need to demand more of ourselves when it comes to localizing these stories. We need to go beyond the initial ‘what happened’ and create conversations about how we can do our part each day to try to prevent such events. Not through large political actions, though there’s a place for that discussion, but through our interactions with each other.

Kim Mills is a writer and military wife with three kids. In the wake of the incidents in Edmonton and Las Vegas, she shared online that she would not respond to the attacks by telling her children that the world is a scary place. She told them scary things can happen in the world and some people can do monstrous things but that people are not monsters. “People are resilient and strong and beautiful,” she writes. “People impress me every day with their compassion, discoveries, achievements. Their willingness to respond in love. The many who run towards the danger … I won’t teach my kids fear. Fear already comes to us naturally. I will teach them safety, and compassion, and diligence. Not fear. Never fear. That would be how evil wins.”

This is how we localize the story.

We talk about what we can each do, individually and as a community, to meet violence with resilience. With grace. With love. And how to turn our anger and our fear into action that helps, not hurts. This is a conversation Moncton has been having, and needs to continue to have.

We know the fear that grips us when an individual attacks our community. We know that the answers are not simple, or even ever given. We can’t reach every person who feels isolated or disenfranchised or who needs psychological help. We can’t legislate the risk of an attack away. But we can share our fear – and our resilience – with each other and with the world.

Writing in The National Post this week, columnist Christie Blatchford railed against the over-sharing of emotional reaction to the Vegas shooting. I agree, the “modern expectation … that every person shall share her feelings and thoughts” publicly in the wake of a tragic event is not journalism, nor is it helpful to the larger discussion that needs to happen.

But we do need to talk about emotions, and how we as a society can try to empathize with each other on a regular basis. We need to have difficult conversations, both privately and publicly, to try to understand how we raise a generation that does not respond to fear with hate.

There can be frank discussions with our politicians and our protectors about how we respond to threats, but there is no legislation or lockdown drill that will always protect us. What can protect us is teaching safety. Teaching diligence. And most of all, teaching compassion. We cannot live in fear or in ignorance. We must live with strength and with understanding. We must lead by example.

A version of this post appeared originally in the Times & Transcript. Click here for more She Said columns.

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