Meg Heckman

Community Outreach Editor, The Concord Monitor

Concord, NH

[NH-E 301]

I’ll go all the way back to the beginning. I was a senior at U.N.H. (University of New Hampshire), and I had, through that chain of coercion that I had mentioned earlier, had ended up covering the police beat for the student paper. And, prior to that, I had been covering the Student Union food trends – so this was my first experience with hard news ever. And a couple of weeks into the first semester, a young woman on campus killed herself by jumping off the sixth or seventh floor of one the high-rise dorms right in the middle of campus. And some boys on their way back from a party found her body. And it was really terrible.

The University barred most outside media after the first day. And rumors were flying, like crazy, all over the campus. And I was terrified to touch the story. And the police agreed to talk to me and sat down – and I mean the cop cried and it was terrible, and I felt awful – and I wrote this story and talked to her friends. And a couple days after the story ran, we realized that the rumors had stopped.

There was accurate information on campus, and you know people – it didn’t stop the tragedy, it didn’t make it any easier, but it at least made everybody’s grief process cleaner, I hope, or at least allowed them to mourn accurate facts. And I think that was when I realized the importance of having an authoritative, responsible source of information in a community.

And, you know, I’ve seen that type of thing time and time again. And the young woman was actually in the journalism program, she was a few years behind me, and I didn’t know her, but I am grateful to the people who knew her who took the time to talk to me back then.

And – yeah – I just think it’s really important to have authoritative, responsible information in a community. So I think, when I see – when I read about – staff cuts and pay cuts and reporters getting fired – it scares me. Because who is going to be that source of information?