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Anchorwoman shares about the most difficult stories to cover

December 14, 2009

By Kelli Warner,
KMTR-TV Morning News anchor, Springfield

When people ask me what’s the toughest part of my job, I don’t even have to think about this one.  The hardest part of the news, for me, is reporting the bad stuff.  You know what I’m talking about, the stories that, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t wrap your head around.

One that comes quickly to memory happened earlier this year.  A man, blitzed out of his mind drove away from a local bar and just minutes later, slammed into an SUV and killed two mothers and two children.  That was a story that touched the souls of people who didn’t even know anyone in those vehicles.  The mere realization that “It could have been me, it could have been my kids” was enough to sadden and outrage an entire community.

Here’s the thing: In journalism school, I was taught that when covering a story, you need to answer the five “w”s—who, what, where, when and why.  But what do you do when the one question that most people want to know the most, need to know—the “why”—has no answer?  Or offers nothing that makes the situation better?  That’s definitely a tough one.

I also get asked a lot why I became a journalist.  That’s easy.  I always say that despite the bad stuff, there’s a lot of good to be shared.  In fact, some of the greatest stories I’ve ever told are about people who really didn’t think they had a story to tell at all.  One that’s always had a place in my heart is a story from Florence.  A seven year old boy riding home in the family minivan one day tells his mom about kids at his school who don’t have enough to eat.  But instead of just making an observation, and asking a few questions, like most seven-year-olds would, this little boy wanted to do something about it.  He started collecting used books and holding a book sale to raise money for the local food pantry.   His first sale brought in $4,000 dollars (remember, he’s seven).  This year, at age 11, that little boy raised more than $16,000 to feed local families.

Impressive to say the least, right?  But here’s the best part: that little boy never did any of it for recognition.  I can tell you from visiting with him every year during his book drive that getting attention was never his intention.  He simply saw a problem and wanted to help fix it.

Those generally aren’t the stories that top the evening’s headlines at news stations around the country.  But shouldn’t they?   I mean, yes, there’s basic information that viewers and readers need and want, and it’s our responsibility to provide it.  But beyond that, there’s other stuff we as journalists should make sure gets told.

They’re the stories that reassure us that in this topsy-turvy world we live in, there’s a lot of good out there.

  
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Discuss this article

kay December 14, 2009

So, is it true that reporters have become slack in double checking their sources stories or do you see them as diligent as ever?

Dee Dee December 14, 2009

Each reporter is different. Some you feel that they are just putting in thier time, while others are always searching for what is being missed. I always admire Tracy Barry 8 because of her involvement in the community. I am not in Springfield but Kelli seems like she has the heart of one who has not forgotten what it is like to be a person, a mom, an Oregonian. I think when you do that you really connect with viewers while still being a professional.

Jasmine Ai December 14, 2009

There are thousands of good small acts of kindness done everyday. Unfortunately, the bad peopel in life always push the limits of crime and just shock the senses out of everyone that it just overshadows teh good that is done. That is why we must keep promoting such stories like the kid selling the books, because it will all drive us crazy if we do not hear it.

Ally December 14, 2009

Kelli, I couldn’t agree with you more. I wish the news would spend more time with the “good stuff.”

Dona December 14, 2009

This is the time of year that the good things that happen in the world seem to be most appreciated. Maybe it’s because we tend to focus on them at Christmas time. I do wish the Portland area would spend more time on the good things than all the bad. I came from the Orange County area in California, and when I moved here it seemd like this was a worse area to live in as the news reports more of the “bad things” than on the positive. I wonder if more of the good things of the world were reported more positive things would happen. It’s like kids, any attention is attention, even if it’s negative.

Merry Christmas to all and may your holiday season be filled with good things and may you make some of them happen for others.

LaRayne December 14, 2009

Here’s a “good thing,” there’s a young lady who works for my folks dentist in Tigard who collects socks and gloves (new of used in good shape) all year long. She goes to downtown Portland and hands them out to the homeless, once again all year long. She receintly told of giving a pair of gloves to a man who was so greatful he had tears in his eyes. We all know that many of the homeless are there by choice, but to truly make a difference for even one person is what such acts of kindness are all about. This young lady goes by herself on the weekends – so please remember her in your thoughts and prayers, not only for her efforts, but her safety as she spreads her special kind of goodness in a tough world.

Suz December 14, 2009

The good will triumph! Peace on earth. Merry Christmas.

noname December 14, 2009

He raised $16,000? That is great. I knwo many big banquet funraisers that spend $20,000 to raise $10,000. Someone hire that kid.

Trevor December 15, 2009

Those who do things without seeking recognition do it from a pure heart and are the real givers. I just hope that when a child does something from a good intention, surprise everyone and tehn is showered with priase it can then twist a good thing. My prayers are with this kid and that this would be the start of many more acts of genrousity.

Jenn December 22, 2009

Thanks for getting through the “bad stuff” to tell us all about the GOOD STUFF!!

Stephanie December 22, 2009

Thank you for covering the stories that matter!

Karma December 22, 2009

It’s very easy to get jaded when watching the news or reading the paper, and I’m afraid all the media attention bad news receives actually desensitizes us and makes us less empathetic. The positive stories are necessary to help keep a balance.

Mun Li December 22, 2009

I look up to a few people in life and I have to say – Kelli Warner is one of those people. I worked with Kelli for two and a half years at KMTR and I must say she is the most positive and hardworking journalist I know. It was tough being a reporter but she always found a way to get me through the tough times. Thank you for your patience, your guidance and friendship.

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