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COURSEY: Reporting a difficult story with respect

If you read all the way to the end of today's sad story about the many funerals in Newtown, Conn., you may have been taken aback or even disgusted by the news that “tempers flared as residents of the town ... navigated the hordes of reporters and camera crews that descended. Some shouted at reporters outside funerals Wednesday, urging them to leave their town in peace.”

Then again, if you read all the way to the end of that story on Page A2 of today's paper, you may appreciate that reporters were on hand to tell you what happened.

It's a dilemma that journalists face all the time while doing our jobs, and it is a part of the job that none of us enjoys.

We bear witness to life — sometimes the good and often the bad — and report it to you. At times, that task makes us intrusive. A photographer taking pictures at a funeral might seem inappropriate to some. But if you can see in your mind's eye little John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father's coffin in 1963, you might forgive the intrusion.

That, of course, was a very public funeral for the nation's most public figure — an important moment in American history. The funerals this week in Newtown are for children and teachers who were not public figures. Nonetheless, what happened there is, or at least should be, an important moment in American history. And recording all aspects of it, including the funerals, also is important.

I'm not saying that journalists — both the professional kind and the so-called “citizen” journalists that now come out of the woodwork at any high-profile event — don't sometimes cross the line of pushiness, intrusiveness and rudeness. We do. Especially when the event is on the scale of Newtown, and the “pack” is out to paw at every available tidbit of news.

But that doesn't change the need for them to bear witness for those of us who are not there. Conveying the loss and grief of last Friday's horrible events is just as important as conveying the shock and the outrage. Reporting on funerals can help ensure that those children and teachers are remembered as sons and daughters and brothers and sisters, not just as victims and statistics.

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