I had planned to write about the weather today. The stupid weather.
Oh, the Boston Marathon was on my mind from the start – one of my best and oldest friends participated, and I followed his path and times online. Had been planning that out for a couple days. He’d won North Dakota state championships in high school, qualified for NAIA nationals in college and earning a spot in this event – and performing well – seemed on par with that, one of the highlights of his running career. And, let’s be honest, running at that level for that long is a lifestyle as much as a sport. Couldn’t be happier for him.
To think that a few hours later I’d be sending him a poorly written text message to ask if he was safe? That was never part of the plan.
Have you been to a road race? It’s one of the most unique and positive places on the planet, at least in my experience. From first finisher to the last, people are excited and determined and supportive. It’s uplifting and probably largely an extension of the distance-running community in general – genuinely caring and fun people (again, in my experience). The only thing that compares to the race-day scene in terms of general good vibes is the waiting room at a high school graduation.
That’s one of the worst things about whatever happened Monday – so much enthusiasm and dedication and inspiration shattered. If only momentarily. Did you see the way people on the scene reacted? It’s just that we didn’t need that sort of affirmation.
I was at work, in a video training session when it happened. The newsroom is an interesting place to be at a time like this in that it’s a barometer: You know something is big or especially awful if it makes a mark on the somewhat hardened people whose business is the news. And this did that maybe more so than I expected, probably because one of our editors was also running the race. She turned up safely, too, and filed reports from the scene in short order. Astounding.
The rest of the day was spent monitoring Twitter, and in short order a trend emerged on my timeline – people asking other people to show restraint in reporting on the situation, to make absolutely certain before so much as retweeting potentially shaky information. To be right rather than first. It was interesting in at least two ways: 1) It revealed that people have grown tired of fast-and-loose reporting/rumor mongering, which I wasn’t sure would ever happen, and 2) plenty of folks seemed to abide. Frankly, the latter part of that is hard to do given the 24-hour news hole we’re all required to fill. I watched CNN for a bit, and could feel the anchors starting to lead guests down speculation alley before pulling back ever so slightly. Either they – and others – were more mindful of fueling unfounded speculation or there wasn’t much information to be had. Either way, it created good feelings about news consumers and creators alike.
Think about how things worked before the Internet: Those of us in the newspaper business would have had at least 8-10 hours to research and report and double check before going to print with anything. There’s no telling how many mistakes were prevented by that lag time through the years. Immediacy is great, but so is carefulness.
And, in an admittedly weird way, it was nice not to know who to blame right away, made it easier to focus on the victims and the responders of this disturbing day.