Reflections on a tragedy

Feb 23 2015

It’s been a hard couple of weeks in Chapel Hill. Through the fog of tragedy that descended on campus, I was glad to have Capitol Hound, the project I’m working on that offers transcripts for legislative sessions. It wasn’t just a distraction from the pain, it was a distraction that mattered. It matters because it exists to make our world better.

I have two families on campus. One is my Reese News Lab family. They’re a crazy bunch of people with ideas as big as their hearts. We laugh a lot and we work hard and honestly I think that’s how the best things come to be.

My other family is the UNC Muslim community. It’s a family that I found through my second major, Arabic. It’s a similarly crazy bunch of people with as many dreams and as much hope and love as the Lab has brainstorms. We laugh a lot and we work hard. That’s how the best things come to be.

Two weeks ago, tragedy shook that family. In the aftermath of the murders of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha, I felt incredibly helpless.

There was nothing I could do to ease the pain so many of my friends were feeling. Nothing I could do to make the world seem lighter, more full of hope.

In those times of helplessness, I needed to do something that mattered. I needed purpose. I needed to be working toward a better world. Capitol Hound provided that.

I’m constantly honored to be working on this project. Good journalism isn’t cheap. Transparency isn’t cheap. But we do it, or we should do it, because the benefits far outweigh the costs. I’m constantly honored to be part of a place that isn’t afraid to tackle those costs head on, so that we all can reap the benefits.

In the Lab we are currently working on projects that increase transparency, decrease corruption, help people through our complex legal system and expand their awareness of the world.

And that’s what we’re supposed to do–not just as journalists, or entrepreneurs–as human beings. We are supposed to make this world better.

Over the past few weeks I’ve learned many lessons that I think apply in business as well as in the rest of life. The most important lesson is that sometimes all you can do is be there for people. Whether it’s finding a way to get legislative sessions recorded in the midst of a North Carolina snowstorm or comforting grieving friends, just showing up and being dependable goes a long way.

When people need you, be there.

Be there and fight to make this world better.


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