The unexpected side to localizing a big news story
I called the Albany Associated Press bureau and Chris Carola, a former member of the Saratogian staff and a local resident, answered. The news was breaking right now; he didn't know anything more yet than we did. Could he have my niece's phone number? Sure. So long as she is safe and she doesn't mind a call, that's a good way to give the story a human voice, a local voice, with whatever bits of information and observations she might have.
Little did I realize that this initial contact would unleash a flood of calls to her and her family from local and national print, broadcast and online media. I'm not sure my sister-in-law has forgiven me. Googling my niece's name and Binghamton brings up 12,100 entries.
I was out of town Friday night when a college friend called my cell phone: "Hey, does your brother have a daughter in Binghamton?" "Yes, she's OK." "I know, I saw it on Yahoo."
On Sunday I was breaking a sweat at the Y when I noticed the Capital News 9 reporting promoting a story for after the break about a young Slingerlands woman who lived next door to the shooting in Binghamton. I realized the reporter was standing in front of my brother's house. I grabbed my cell phone. "Your house is on channel 9." "Thirteen, too," he replied. "I tried to tell them the story isn't about us."
After the break, I watched my niece talk about how she and her housemates evacuated in their pajamas (it was after 10 a.m., you can tell they were college students), what a nice neighborhood it was, and positive things about the community and the college. She didn't make it about her. It was well-edited, for my brother told me later they were there a very long time. Or maybe it just seemed like a long time.
The shootings were horrific. I am so grateful my loved one was never in danger. And I appreciate that she and my brother and sister-in-law were willing to be interviewed, over and over. People are hungry for information, so even a peripheral view from a next-door neighbor means something. Besides, it brings a story home to know that someone you might know lived right next door.