Donna Royer, a mother of two, was killed by her ex-husband.
The first time I reported on a tragedy, I was in college working for a student newscast.
I remember the story clearly because of the sadness I felt for the father involved. I also remember it clearly because of the people I worked with in the college newsroom were disgusted with my decision to report on the story.
A father backing out of his driveway didn’t notice his toddler was in the way. The little boy was killed.
I moved forward with the brief story, believing the tragic case would be a reminder for parents and babysitters.
As I wrote up the news script then, I remember receiving dirty looks and hearing the disgusted whispers of my fellow young reporters in the newsroom.
13 years later, as an uncle to two little girls, when I back out of my driveway, that story cycles through my head even before I jump in the car.
I’d like to hope someone who heard that story way back then still remembers too.
Tragedies in communities are often difficult to approach as reporters, because inevitably there will be backlash against the media when reporters start showing up with big news cameras.
Often people will give reporters like me tongue lashings and dirty looks for intruding.
I don’t blame them.
To some folks, reporters are just there to swoop in with their squads of news trucks to devour sound bites, and then move on without a care to the victims and to the people who are grieving.
We are responsible for our reputation in the field, and to be honest, some reporters out there are not so delicate with their approach to such stories.
I’m already surrounded by a cloud of distrust when I move onto a scene because of this perception.
And so was the case today involving the terrible story of Donna Royer.
My goal, in any tragedy, is to give our viewers perspective on what lead up to the event, and most importantly to humanize the innocent.
I moved on with door knocks, looking for such perspective from neighbors. Often they have the best insight on what happened.
Today I found a nice neighbor who was willing to share perspective about Royer’s life with us. She felt it was important.
It was an excellent perspective about a well respected woman who may have put up a brave façade for the sake of her children.
Royer feared for her life as she indicated in the restraining order I found. She was afraid of her ex husband. For some reason, she didn’t move forward with the restraining order.
There are thousands of other women in the Denver area who may silently identify with Royer.
Her death, while deeply tragic and horrible, brings to light the touchy subject of domestic violence—a subject that victims often don’t want to talk about or acknowledge out of fear of retaliation.
Later in the day, I was approached by a couple of people, including one man who shouted from his car window that our cameras were disrespectful.
Another teenage girl approached our live truck and said there was nothing new to the story and that we should stop covering it and just leave.
Some people on facebook today expressed disgust at the medias’ efforts to cover the story. Some of these same people posted articles on their own profiles.
Often when I do receive tongue lashings and dirty looks out in the field, I can’t but help feel a little ashamed.
Maybe these people are right.
Maybe I am just some scumbag reporter looking to exploit someone’s death for a quick one-minute report.
But then all of that goes away when I remind myself the story behind a tragedy is more important than my own insecurities and obstacles.
What I’m dealing with is nothing compared to the heavy grief experienced by families who find themselves wrapped up in such horrible events.
While I can’t see the audience behind the lens, I believe someone out there is listening and learning, and thinking.
Maybe there’s another Donna Royer out there who is afraid to get help.
The two girls who lost their parents in all of this can use your support. A fund has been set up. Walk into any Wells Fargo and donate to “Donna Royer’s Children.”