So it will never happen again

“So it will never happen again.”

If I hear that again, there’s a good chance I’ll be taking hostages. reporter

News Directors all have their pet annoyances when it comes to writing. Not that I should I ever be daft enough to sink to the level of news director, but if I were, one of my admonitions would be to banish the phrase, “So it never happens again.”

Listen dummy, it will happen again. And I don’t care what “it” is. It will happen again. It always does.

Generally speaking, the “it” is some sort of tragedy or unforeseen mishap. And also generally, the journalist reporting on said tragedy works, “So it never happens again” into his or her copy… either as an “original” though, or by attributing the thought to the motives of the victims or stakeholders in said tragedy.

Now, I bear no ill will toward the people who have: suffered the loss of a loved one, organized a candle light vigil, or proposed a new law so “it will never happen again.” These people need an outlet for their grief, and God bless them, have probably never been confronted with the fairly routine horror they vow to never let “happen again.”

I’ll even go as far as to give a little slack to policy makers who indulge their propensity toward magical thinking by naively believing that whatever rule or law they propose can actually keep “it from ever happening again.”

But media types have to be the adults here and quit creating, or at least parroting, any idea or expectation that anything can really be done to “keep it from ever happening again.” You have to understand that if you bite on “so it never happens again” you have bitten on a lie. You are repeating and reinforcing an unrealistic fantasy at best, and a blatant lie at worst.

Don’t help create this naive fantasy. It will happen again, and parroting another’s naive statements about preventing “it from ever happening again” does nothing to expose truth.

Yes. Truth.

My wife used to complain bitterly about the “body tours” I would spontaneously conduct as we drove through some of the towns in which I worked. “Oh, there’s where the kid drowned. There’s where the guy fell into the wood chipper. There’s where the lady was kidnapped and dismembered.” She did not appreciate the gruesome landmarks of my life.

But I also know she came to understand, as I did, that really terrible stuff happens all the time, and that as scary as it is, it will happen again, and again, and again.

Take the craziest crime or accident you can think of and multiply the laws, policies or prayers enacted to prevent “it from ever happening again” by ten. That’s how many more times “it” will happen.

Listen. It’s not good that “it” happens again, and again, and again – it’s really sad and upsetting. But helping people come to grips with the awful… with the random nature of evil and the ambiguity of life is something journalists must do if they ever really hope to advance truth.

It’s why I’m a bit of a radical in thinking the dead bodies and dismemberment left behind from shootings, rapes, murders, DUIs and domestic violence so readily accepted in our society should be shown in our living rooms in fulll HD. I mean my God, why are we paying for HD if we can’t see real reality TV?

If you are writing and/or reporting as a working journalist, please do not allow your scripts to somehow indulge a deluded soul’s wish that the symbolic vigil, or new policy, or new law, or enlightened practice, or hopeful change will ever prevent “it” from happening again. It will happen again. As God is my witness, and as sad as I am about it, it will.

Do you sense that my soul is gripped by an epic cynicism as you read this? Am I without hope? Is my world view entirely nihilistic?

Not at all. I believe in the power of truth.

Change can happen. Brutality can be confronted. Evil can be defeated.

But it is only through clear-eyed reportage that this can happen… that we can arrive at the truth.

Every time a practicing journalists writes or says, “So it can never happen again” – that journalist is keeping the world at least one step removed from seeing itself as it is, and therefore is providing a sort of rhetorical “padding” between the reality-fantasy in which we all want to live and the stark realizations that are necessary to implement meaningful change.

But that’s just me.

I’ll make note about my style so that blogs like this one will never happen again.