Mar 06, 2019

Close to Home

Bob Crossen headshot
Bob Crossen, managing editor of WWD.

Our offices and my home are less than an hour drive from the Henry Pratt Co. building in Aurora, Ill., so when news broke about an active shooter there, I initially was stunned.

As a journalist who worked in newspapers prior to working in business-to-business media, my reporter instincts kicked in and we immediately began coverage. In these times, I often try to distance myself from the event with the aim of becoming a fly on the wall, so as to remove myself emotionally. In this way, I can focus on the news.

But for this, I felt different because of the people I know at Mueller Water Products and the pain that this caused. I could not remove my emotional half from this coverage.

It is a difficult process covering these kinds of tragedies. It raises ethical and moral implications in how to cover the events while also keeping in mind the humans behind the words we write. My team and I did our best to follow what I called a “human-first approach” in our coverage, and the following week, our entire team—including our publisher—discussed the morality of this kind of journalism. We focused heavily on how to make sure we are keeping a straight moral compass through it all, and how to balance that with our desire to cover the news.

There are places where I think we faltered in our approach, particularly in how heavy our coverage was initially. There are other areas where I think we can improve so we can be more mindful and thoughtful in how we approach sensitive topics in the future, as well. 

I also received feedback from a couple of audience members about what we wrote and how we presented it. I have found that invaluable, and I want to include your input in this, as well. If you have feedback on anything we cover or how we cover it, please send me an email at [email protected]. I would like to include you in this discussion should you wish to be a part of it. Being better people personally and professionally should not stop when the news cycle ends.

Lastly, I want to commend the first responders, five of whom were injured while trying to locate the gunman in the building. Their bravery prevented a potentially even worse tragedy from occurring. 

And I also want to commend Mueller Water Products for how they have handled this event. Mueller CEO Scott Hall and Spokesperson Yolanda Coleman Kokayi have been forthcoming with the media, set aside time to meet with the victims’ families face to face, and put together an aid and assistance program that shows how much they value their employees.

To the Mueller Water Products company, employees, and families: We all wish you the best in processing this tragedy. You are in our thoughts and our prayers.

About the author

Bob Crossen is managing editor of WWD. Crossen can be reached at [email protected]