Communication makes everyone’s lives easier. That was the message at a media summit held in Boone at Appalachian State University on Tuesday. Attendees included police and health care providers, educational institutions and media outlets. The room was filled with print, video and even internet exclusive media. The main message, from every direction, was communication is key.
When coming upon a situation like an accident, a reporter’s first question is not always “who, what, when, where, why and how?” As often as not it is, “Is everyone OK?” and in a small community like ours that question is quickly followed by, “Other than stay out of your way until the emergency is over, what can I do to help?”
It’s not surprising that the most helpful thing we can do is to stay out of the way and be patient. We may be aware that there are people waiting to hear from us about how long the road will be closed so they know if they need to make changes when they pick up their kids, but it’s more important to remember the people in the moment.
Those people include the emergency workers who are every bit as human as the journalist, who is only there to observe and report but wants to help. They may seem to be efficient machines in a crisis, or they might even appear to be gruff and unfriendly in the moment, but it’s important to realize they have emotional reactions to these moments as well.
Even if the emotion is controlled, or just the reaction, at some point those things that they cannot forget in the night will strike them with memory as another experience seems to relive their nightmares.
Still, they have a job to do, just as does the reporter who is expected to write the story and the parent who is expected to pick up their child on time.
We each experience these shared moments through different eyes often forgetting to consider the perspectives of one another. The childcare worker may only know that their children will be late for an appointment because someone else is late. The reporter may be unaware that well-meaning individuals have already gotten in the policeman’s way in the past causing complications. A painful situation becomes hurt feelings and too often further breakdown in communications.
So often a few words can alleviate a large amount of frustration. Sharing basic information like calling to say why a person is running late, or even to inform them their regular path is blocked, can let someone know you value them.
Telling someone you are having a difficulty or what you need from them, like time to find the answers required, allows mutual acknowledgement and can lead to assistance.
Planning ahead, making it a point to communicate before an urgent moment arises is even better. When people make it a point to share time with one another discussing their common ground, whether it be where their jobs or their social lives intertwine, there is a foundation for those moments when communication must be quick.
We are lucky to live in a small community where many aspects of our lives intersect, allowing opportunities for communication. As a reporter this is helpful. As I come upon a crowd of emergency workers now, because I have been clear in the past, I will step back and wait even while I try to let the community know how the moment will impact their lives. Because we have taken advantage of previous interactions, I know organizers of events will answer my questions without my need to trip them up as they take care of the million things that need to be done that day.
It is this kind of community communication that we are lucky to have that we should not only cherish, but always strive to improve upon, applying it to all our relationships.
Beanie Taylor is a staff reporter for The Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-258-4058.