Newtown, Conn., normally doesn’t get mentioned on the pages of the New Haven Register.
But when so many innocent lives were lost Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, its editors knew it was their duty to cover the tragedy just outside of its coverage area. And they needed help.
The Register asked reporters at its sister papers throughout the country to help inform its readers of the latest news of the shooting and its impact on the community.
Danielle Lynch, a master of journalism student at Temple University’s School of Media and Communication, was one of the reporters who answered the call.
The county government reporter at the Delaware County Daily Times, Lynch mentally prepared herself to face the aftermath of this horror as she made the four-hour trek to the makeshift satellite office in a Southbury, Conn., hotel conference room just 15 minutes away from the school.
“I remember saying a prayer that hopefully what I do up there will bring some comfort to them,” she says.
A quilted staff
Lynch says the hodgepodge staff of reporters from papers from Pottstown, Pa., to Denver worked quite well under their unfamiliar editors from Connecticut while she worked the story for three days just before Christmas.
“You had to be careful not to step on anyone’s toes, but everyone was trying to be helpful,” she says.
The Register reporters served as the local experts when anyone needed some assistance with a story, be it directions or insight into the nuances of the community.
Lynch’s first assignment took her to a nearby school that was on lockdown because of a perceived threat. She was to be the paper’s second reporter there, but the editor thought it would help acclimate her with the area. As she drove to the school, it all looked too familiar to her Chester County neighborhood.
“I felt like I was at home.”
Lynch was in Newtown nearly a week after the shooting and the residents were ready to reclaim their quaint community back from the news trucks and reporters. She overheard people talking outside of a child’s funeral she was sent to cover. They spoke freely, not knowing Lynch was a reporter.
“We hope that the media eventually goes away,” one said.
“But without them, we wouldn’t know about these funerals,” another responded.
Later, a passer-by rolled down his window to yell, “Scumbags,” at the cluster of news cameras across the street.
“People in the community wanted us to leave, and I understand that,” she said. “At the same time, I hope they understand that we’re trying to explain things to people… by what we write and report. We don’t have ill intent. We’re not there to cause any harm. We’re just trying to explain to people why this happened.”
Lynch said her time in Newtown was a good learning experience — and one that offered a new perspective on life’s little annoyances — but “this just can’t happen again.”