In the business of bad news?

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MilesI have spent the last two weeks contemplating what I would write about for my column and have managed to put it off until the last possible day. In my contemplating, I’ve considered writing about a lot of different topics, but in the end I kept coming back to the feelings of shock and horror that I felt when I looked through the photos from the atrocity that took place last week at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on a plan to conduct interviews for every issue, but when a senior member of the University administration was in London during the time frame of getting an interview for this issue, I was worried that I would not have a captivating story for the front page of Features.

Even as a student journalist, I am constantly thinking of the stories I would like to include in the next issue and online. While talking to my friend Vivek Shah last Monday, I was stunned by the close connection he had to the attack in Nairobi and wanted to help in any way I could.

By Wednesday, knowing the terrorist siege of the Mall was finally over, I asked Vivek if he would consider writing an article. The precarious situation I was in was to balance the need for a story with the horrific events playing out only an eight hour flight away.

I felt like this was my first taste of ‘real’ journalism. Having watched many documentaries and interviews with journalists, I’ve always heard of this struggle to balance emotions with the need to cover a story. When is something too sensitive to publish? Where is the line on graphic images?

The Saint and I have been ‘blessed’ enough, if I can even use that word, to receive this dramatic reflection on the events in Nairobi and the exclusive photos that accompanied them from a close friend of Vivek’s uncle who experienced the ordeal first-hand.

During the process of layout the editor, deputy editor and I could not believe the photos we were viewing. We were incredibly fortunate to get the exclusive on these and spent over an hour discussing the legality and sensitivity of each photo prior to publishing. This process included reviewing journalism ethics and legal books to make sure we published ‘appropriate’ photos. In the end, this did result in us withholding certain photos from publishing owing to their graphic nature.

I continually thanked Vivek for providing us with his story, but each time I made sure to choose my words carefully since the entire situation is difficult.

In the future, I hope to compliment some more ‘standard’ interviews with provocative and electrifying stories like the aforementioned one covering the Westgate tragedy.

[pullquote]My relief for getting such an incredible story also makes me wonder: am I in the business of bad news? Is it awful that my first response to a tragedy is the desire to get insiders to share their own accounts and get an exclusive for The Saint? [/pullquote]

My relief for getting such an incredible story also makes me wonder: am I in the business of bad news? Is it awful that my first response to a tragedy is the desire to get insiders to share their own accounts and get an exclusive for The Saint?

I am sure that over the course of the year I will be better able to handle the challenges of covering sensitive stories and improve my radar for obtaining new stories.

I am greatly enjoying my tenure thus far as Features editor and with each new issue I’m learning significantly more about what it means to be a journalist.

Over the next several issues I plan to include many exclusive interviews with both Univeristy of St Andrews administrators, professors and student leaders, along with figures outside of the St Andrews community.

Furthermore, as with the Nairobi story, I am working on connecting events with students in the St Andrews community. The University has a very diverse student body and so, while searching for connections to stories can be challenging, the final results always provide for a more exciting read and superior quality student journalism.

So finally, when you pick up the paper and flip to Features on page 15, know that you will be able to read national and international stories with only a few degrees of separation from many students with very close knowledge of the events detailed.

Additionally, travel and lifestyle stories that directly involve students has always been a staple of Features and will continue to be this year. Great student journalism does require strong writers, so if you have ever considered writing, please do join our team.

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