Empathy first; job second

The first story I covered this semester on my sports features beat for the Columbia Missourian was the Sasha Menu Courey case. I was struggling to get a foothold on my beat, and I needed a story. One fell in my lap. 

I won’t lie; at first I was excited. I really wanted to put the pedal to the metal this semester, but I was having difficulty determining how to do that. When this scandal became public thanks to ESPN, I felt relief. I had something to do.

Ironically, I already had a story idea in the works about NCAA sexual assault scandals and how Mizzou has handled theirs in comparison to other schools. I decided to aggregate data on documented sexual assault scandals in college athletics, and each time I found something, I had a similar feeling of relief. I spent hours collecting the stuff, reading gruesome details but still being happy to have a clear directive.

Then, I sat back a little later and it all started to sink in. I was reading some awful stuff and, after a delay, it was getting to me.

We didn’t even use the information I gathered, but that wasn’t really the point. More importantly, I saw how traumatic events can affect you. Hell, I was just aggregating data. I wasn’t talking to victims. And it still had an effect on my psyche. That’s one big takeaway.

The bigger one? I realized how easy it can be to be cold when you’ve got that journo-crazy look in your eyes. Thankfully, no one was affected by my temporary aloofness, but if I had talked to actual people, things could’ve gotten sticky. 

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