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Q&A With WHDH’s Melissa Turtinen

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This photo, taken about two miles from the finish line Monday, was taken hours before the bombings. Photo by Melissa Turtinen.

This photo, taken about two miles from the finish line Monday, was taken hours before the bombings. Photo by Melissa Turtinen.

Melissa Turtinen, a 2009 UMass journalism graduate and now a Web Producer with WHDH-TV took time to share some thoughts about what it was like to be in Boston the day of the Boston Marathon bombings:

1.  Where were you when the bombings occurred?

I had taken the day off of work. Marathon Monday is one of my favorite days of the year. I had spent the morning watching the runners. When the bombings happened, I was sitting at a Brookline restaurant about two miles away from the finish line. I was about to order when I got a text from my co-worker asking if I was at the finish line. I assumed she wanted photos for our slideshow. I was wrong. She was making sure I was alive.


2.  What were your first reactions?  Were you working?
I assumed it was an electrical explosion. It didn’t even occur to me it could be something worse. When I asked my co-worker if she needed help. Her response was “I don’t know, I think so.” I got up from the table and got on the T. As text messages poured in it started to hit me. People were dying. The T stopped its service just down the road and I got off the T and ran, walked, jogged the three miles to work. During that time I had awhile to think, look at my surroundings, and take in what was happening. I was walking on a street that runs parallel to Boylston Street, where the bombing happened. I could smell it. Some people around me were also crying, others looked frantic and some people didn’t seem to know anything had happened.
When I got to work I put my emotions to the side. I pretended it wasn’t really happening. It’s the only way I could have gotten through the day.
I blogged about it last night when I got home… it’s a more detailed account of my reaction.

3.  How have you viewed the coverage?  Have you used social media?
Being one of the managers of 7News’ social media accounts, it was one of the main ways we provided information to our viewers. Our coverage started with trying to provide the most accurate and pertinent information first — links to Google people finder, information for how people could contact their loved ones, while we tried to confirm what happened so we could get the word out. A lot of our coverage started with video of the scene, because we had cameras at the finish line, including first-hand accounts from our reporters who cover — or run — the marathon every year.
It was definitely difficult to determine what photos and video were okay to post on our website. How do you determine what is too graphic while trying to convey what happened to those who weren’t there? It’s a thin line. What’s okay? I don’t think I’ll ever know the right answer to that question. Even the day after I was still struggling with what was acceptable to show viewers.
4.  What are your thoughts today?
Today was harder. It became a reality. It was harder to keep my emotions in check, but I knew I had to. Every new story of a victim, of someone reaching out to help someone, affected me. On the bus into work I found myself tearing up while scrolling through Twitter. When I walked to work there were numerous armed officials stationed a couple meters apart holding huge guns. I’ve never seen a gun that big in real life. I was nervous, sad, and finally starting to comprehend what was happening.
There were highs and lows throughout the day as victims were identified and officials released more information on their investigations. I was stressed at points because we were so busy in the newsroom. I was sad, angry, frustrated, exhausted and most of all emotional, but I think I was able to hold it together well enough to get my job done.
We stayed on the air from 4:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. When we do this during snowstorms viewers send angry emails, tweets and Facebook posts. Today we didn’t get that, even when there was a lull in new information. It showed how affected this city, the state, the nation, was by what happened on Monday.

Q&A With NPR.org’s Eric Athas

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Boston on the day after the Boston Marathon bombings. Photo by Eric Athas.

Boston on the day after the Boston Marathon bombings. Photo by Eric Athas.

Eric Athas, a 2008 graduate of the UMass journalism program and a Digital News Specialist with NPR.org working out of Boston shared his thoughts today:
1. Where were you when the bombings occurred?
I was working in our offices, which are more than a mile away from the site of the bombings.
I stepped out to get a coffee when my sister, who also works in Boston, sent me this text message: “What happened at the marathon do you know?” I opened Twitter on my phone and immediately realized how bad things were. I left the cafe and headed back to the office.
On my way I passed by a firefighter who was already gearing up. He yelled to another firefighter, “There was a terrorist attack, let’s go!” Everything became real at that moment.
2. What were your first reactions?  Were you working?
My first reaction was, Who do I know who might be at the marathon and are they okay? Fortunately, friends and family are safe.
Later in the day I went to WBUR and helped with their social media coverage. If you haven’t visited WBUR.org, you should. They are doing an outstanding job covering this story, both on-air and online.
3.  How have you viewed the coverage?  Have you used social media?
When I returned to the office after first hearing the news, I watched television news while scanning Twitter. I already follow a strong set of local sources who I’m familiar with so I had a reliable stream of information to watch.
4. What are your thoughts today?
Of course there are so many questions right now about how this happened and who’s responsible. But I think the victims and their families are in everyone’s thoughts today.

Q&A With Runner’s World Editor Hannah McGoldrick

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This photo was taken from inside the press room at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. This was taken when the first press conference with the Boston Police Department that took place across the street at the Westin. We were on lockdown from the moment the blasts went off until about 7 p.m. and were prohibited from leaving the building. The eerie part of this photo is the race clock was still running throughout everything, a constant reminder of how long the disaster was unfolding. Photo by Hannah McGoldrick

This photo was taken from inside the press room at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. The eerie part of this photo is the race clock was still running throughout everything, a constant reminder of how long the disaster was unfolding. Photo by Hannah McGoldrick

Hannah McGoldrick graduated from the UMass Journalism program last May and quickly landed her dream job as an associate multimedia editor for Runner’s World.  When the bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, she was inside the press room at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel.

“We were on lockdown from the moment the blasts went off until about 7 p.m. and were prohibited from leaving the building. The eerie part of this photo (right) is the race clock was still running throughout everything, a constant reminder of how long the disaster was unfolding.”

Hannah was kind enough to take time out of her reporting today to do a Q&A with me:

1. Where were you when the bombings occurred?
I was in the press room at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel when the bombings occurred. I had just finished my race recap of the U.S. Elite Women runners, including Massachusetts native, Shalane Flanagan, and filed it to my editor. I was there with two other editors and our web producer, as well as an editor from The Running Times. The press room is where the majority of the media watches the marathon on race day and elites are shuffled into the press conference room right after finishing, so once the building went into lockdown, the majority of the press on the scene was not allowed to leave. We knew about as much information as those who were watching TV from home.

 

2. What were your first reactions?  Were you working?
I was talking with my coworkers when we heard the two bombs go off. At first we thought maybe it was thunder and continued with our conversation. But, when one of the B.A.A. press reps came running into the room to declare the lockdown we knew it was serious and shortly after we found out it was a bomb near the finish line. My first reaction was, is all of our staff safe? We had four staff members running the marathon and we knew two of them hadn’t finished yet and one of them had just crossed the finish line. A Boston Globe reporter was sitting near me most of the day but he had been out at the finish when the explosions went off. He came running back in with his videocamera and was visibly upset, saying he had seen limbs and blood everywhere. We didn’t really know what to do. We tried to collect as much information as possible to get up on our website because we knew people would be coming to Runner’s World for answers.

 

3. How have you viewed the coverage?  Have you used social media?
WBZ was playing in the press room throughout the entire day and when the bombs went off that was our source for information, besides the press people from the B.A.A. We had one editor who was on the photo bridge at the finish when the bombs went off so we were able to get a first-hand account from him. We were cautious about what we put out on our personal and official social media accounts. My editor first made sure we contacted our loved ones so they would know we were OK. It was hard to get information out and to get information in in terms of coverage, but we tried to get the most accurate, and officially confirmed information on our website. We did not need to make any corrections or redactions.

 

4. What are your thoughts today?
Today has been tough. I’m still trying to process everything that happened but I also have a job to do. As a journalist, my job right now is to stay calm and report as many facts as I can confirm. I’m working mostly on the local angle, what local running clubs are doing to help, how people can show support, as well as providing back up and ledes for our news editor. But as a Bostonian and a runner, I feel as though my family has been attacked. I can attest that both the Boston community and the running communities are full of strong, resilient people and we will get through this, but it’s not going to be easy. I am grateful no one from my team was hurt as a result of this tragedy but my heart just breaks for those who were.