Just like you

July 23, 2010 1:04:22 PM PDT
We held our latest town hall meeting last night. And, like the others, it was a fascinating look at how some viewers perceive us and what we do. As always, there was no shortage of story ideas, and various lambasting of assorted public agencies.

One person asked us how we deal with reporting so much tragedy and violence and pain. How does it affect you, the woman asked?

My colleague Diana Williams was the first to answer: It affects us just like it affects you.

Which is to say if you're tearing up, chances are we are too.

And today, we're tearing up, just like you.

The dual tragedies involving children can leave you speechless and make it hard to breathe: A house fire that was apparently supposed to conceal the murder of a mother and her three children at the hands of her oldest son, who then killed himself. And a hit and run of two sisters in Newark, one of whom, just 5 years old, was killed.

It's hard to breathe just writing all that.

We are pursuing both stories tonight at 11 - the arrest of the driver of the hit and run car, and trying to understand, if the police theory is true, why a 14-year-old boy would kill his mother and siblings.

Both stories involve trying to make sense out of something senseless. Maybe that's futile, but I'm not sure how else to approach it.

Also at 11, Jeff Smith, in for Lee Goldberg, is tracking Tropical Storm Bonnie, which no longer lies over the ocean, but is crossing Florida and entering the Gulf of Mexico. In a bizarre scenario, at least at first Bonnie will push some of the oil away from shore.

And finally, a mention about Daniel Schorr, the veteran broadcaster and commentator who died today. The 93-year-old Schorr was working just about till the end, as a commentator for NPR. I heard a few weeks ago on the weekend edition with Scott Simon; the two had a wonderful chemistry ? two smart guys, one asking pointed questions, the other answering with insight and the experience of a lifetime covering politics and world events.

For those of us of a certain age, Schorr was a hero, and, at least for this reporter, a role model of what a journalist should be. He was skeptical, always. He wrote that his motto early on was, "Find out what they're hiding and tell those who need to know." Later, as he softened his approach and got more into analysis, he would say that his motto became, "The people know a lot. Tell them what to make of it."

His reporting of the Watergate scandal earned him a place on the coveted Nixon Enemies List. Schorr put the public's right to know at the top of his to-do list, and for that, young journalists today should be reading his obit and pulling up tapes of his work ? first for CBS, where he was hired by Edward R. Murrow, then for CNN, where he was hired by Ted Turner, and, finally, for NPR.

Schorr made his name in Washington, but he was a New Yorker ? born and raised in the Bronx. He was not the most popular reporter among his colleagues; he could be cantankerous and harsh. But Schorr was a giant in the business, and it's his body of work that peeps will remember, and why we mourn him tonight.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa (in for Liz Cho) and me, tonight at 11, right after 20/20.

BILL RITTER

PS: I'm off next week, and this column will resume on Monday, August 2.

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