A breaking, tragic event, leaves a touch of nostalgia

It’s hard for me to sit on the sidelines on days like today.

A courthouse shooting leaving one dead and four injured, of the kind which makes the national news happened today here in Beaumont.

Here is great breaking news report by Houston-based Michael Graczyk, the sharp Associated Press writer whose byline most people see on stories about the prison system and executions. He has attended just about every execution for AP since Texas restored the death penalty.

Unfortunately, when big stories such as these break, it is usually when people die violently from some source of the other. People still want to know the story — who it happened to and who or what caused it; what happened; when the event took place and the timeline, if pertinent; in what location or locations the event happened; and lastly, why it happened. It might take awhile to learn the latter, whether days, months or even years.

It is a rush reporting a captivating “spot” story whether one is reporting from the field or back in the office doing the rewrite. If you told me 20 years ago I would find rewriting what reporters at the scene report and then timely crafting the information into an interesting and informing story, I might have said you were smoking crack. Either reporting from the scene or back at the desk is a challenge for someone who wants to and has a burning desire to tell a story that is important to untold numbers of people who are trying to find out “what is going on?”

Reading some of the early coverage of this tragic event givse me pause as to just how good social media is for reporting or more specifically, how can it better used? Much of what I saw early on was a conglomeration of disparate parts of the story. Some information came from witnesses, some from someone who held some type of officialdom even though this person may be commenting something that is nothing more than hearsay. For instance, I read a “live” Twitter feed of the police press conference held a couple hours after the incident. It was difficult to determine just who was speaking and just what the relation was between the person speaking and the “newser.”

My “wistfulness” and my take on how journalists were tackling the story isn’t at all to make light of what happened. After all, this is my city and what happened affected my “neighbors” and their families.

If I might, one last time, take from my experience in journalism to look at what happened I would point at where this happened and the immediate event that may have triggered it.

You may think you hear a lot about courthouse shootings. I don’t know how many actually happen a year. When such an incident occurs it automatically is a larger than normal story no matter the city or town where it takes place. Courthouses — whether local, state or federal –are the almost sacred temples of our laws and the people who look to those laws for protection and for fairness. When one is on trial for their life or reputation or is seeking relief over a property or familial issue, one naturally will find high emotion. In the case of this shooting it appears the alleged shooter was on trial for the very serious charge of aggravated sexual assault.

We have armed security and metal detectors in most of our courthouses these days. The Jefferson County Courthouse, where this happened, is no exception. But even those dedicated individuals who guard our courthouses and screen those who enter cannot keep a built-in emotion at bay. So this happens. No arguments about guns because they are useless. The genie is out of the bottle when it comes to guns.

It’s a sad event. But for one who spent a great deal of his life writing about such happenings and surrounded by the drama of the moment it leaves an old newshound with just a tiny bit of nostalgia.

My sorrow for those lost or injured goes without saying.