Tragedy and Hope: Two Sides of the Hallway

Jul 12, 2016

A friend who works in the next office over at PRI's The World told me last weekend that his job is to report the news, and my job is to help people escape from it.

If you walk down the studio hallway in our building, you'll see WCRB hosts on one side inviting you to listen to Mozart or Brahms while the Boston Police Commissioner is live on the air on the other side, on 89.7, giving a caller assurances that the BPD is doing what it can to build trust between officers and the community.

In the hallway, producers for All Things Considered scramble to get the technical details right for breaking news coverage of events in Dallas. I overhear planning for the upcoming Democratic and Republican National Convention coverage.

And what’s my biggest worry today? Making sure the right promos are running this week, and that the “Symphony at 8” schedule in August doesn’t duplicate music we're broadcasting in live Boston Symphony concerts from Tanglewood.

It’s easy to feel like what I do - what we all do here at WCRB - is frivolous, especially compared to those making the news and those reporting on it. While my friends and colleagues across the hall risk their lives reporting overseas, and colleagues across the NPR system are arrested while reporting on protests, and my reporter friends experience traumatizing news fatigue I can’t even fathom, we’re sitting here playing music that was written hundreds of years ago, in the hopes that we’re making someone’s day a little brighter.

Sadly though, with increased frequency, I’m reminded that what we do is not only relevant, it’s necessary. I worry that I’ve become numb to the “there was a bombing/shooting/terrorist attack, what do you want me to say” questions from whoever is on the air when tragedy strikes. Our on-air response is always to acknowledge what has happened, but to avoid discussing it in-depth - that’s what the news station is for. We’re here to provide solace, to inspire hope, and to remind people that the human spirit will prevail and that there’s still beauty and kindness in the world.

I remember the day after the Boston Marathon bombing, when a listener called the station after we played “The Lark Ascending.” She thanked us, saying it was a moment of sanity for her in a chaotic world. I replay that phone call in my head after each event, reminding myself that what we do is just as important as what our colleagues across the hall are doing.

My hope for the future is a world where I don’t have to be reminded of our relevance because of tragedy. I wish for a world where classical radio doesn’t have to be a place of solace after tragedy. But I’m glad that it’s there, for now, when we need it.