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“The Cut” is a weekly reporters notebook-type essay by an Ideastream Public Media content creator, reflecting on the news and on life in Northeast Ohio. What exactly does “The Cut” mean? It's a throwback to the old days of using a razor blade to cut analog tape. In radio lingo, we refer to sound bites as “cuts.” So think of these behind-the-scene essays as “cuts” from Ideastream's producers.

When tragedy hits home: Covering a shooting and working toward change in my city

A cherry blossom in bloom along the Towpath Trail near Downtown Akron.
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
A cherry blossom in bloom along the Towpath Trail near Downtown Akron.

I’ve been covering the Akron city government beat for two years now. I moved to Akron shortly after I got the beat, two years ago in July.

In some ways, it feels like I’ve been covering and living in this community for a lot longer, because so much has happened in this city over the past two years — challenges, triumphs, excitement and heartbreak.

Now that the weather is (mostly) warm, I like to take walks along the Towpath Trail near Downtown. As I pass the rushing Cuyahoga River and historic remnants of the Ohio & Erie Canal that helped put Akron on the map nearly 200 years ago, I often find myself reflecting on everything I’ve experienced, learned and discovered here over the past two years.

I’ve grown to love this city — particularly its parks, breweries, restaurants, minor league baseball team, and, above all, its people. It’s a town full of hard-working citizens who take immense pride in their neighborhoods. I’ve met so many passionate people of all ages who truly care about making this city a great place to live.

My memories of the past two years exist in two different buckets in my brain: stories and issues I report on, and the culture and activities that I’ve come to love in my free time as a resident.

But when I recently had to cover a tragedy that struck my own community, it became hard to put my personal feelings as a resident aside.

On Sunday, June 2, Akron awoke to the shocking news that a mass shooting had occurred on the east side of our city.

Just after midnight, an unknown number of suspects fired dozens of times into a crowd at a birthday party on Kelly Avenue. The victim toll has now risen to 28, including one person who died, Lateris Cook, and two people who were critically injured.

When I heard about the shooting on Sunday morning, my initial reaction was shock. Then I was angry. How could someone do this? This senseless act of violence stole a young person’s life and has left so many others with long-lasting, unimaginable trauma.

Then, my reporter instincts kicked in. Since it was a weekend, I needed to alert Ideastream’s on-call reporter and editor to the news. I also needed to prepare myself for follow-up coverage the next day, as well as the weeks and months ahead.

Journalists strive to minimize our personal biases and not let our emotions get in the way when covering stories. Of course, we are human, so emotions can sometimes come through, especially at the end of the day when we log off and go home.

With this story, though, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to fully lock up my personal feelings. And it’s certainly not a story I can try not to think about when I log off.

Akron is my home, and I love this city. I’m furious that a shooting of this magnitude happened in this community. I’m angry that whoever did this still hasn’t been held accountable. I’m heartbroken for the victims and their families who have been traumatized by this incident.

However, I’m also starting to feel inspired. This caring community has come together in full force to support the victims.

I’m inspired by the dozens of people who’ve attended prayer vigils and organized meetings with the families to see how they can assist them during this time of need.

I’m also inspired by a new fund that’s been set up to help the victims. Several nonprofit organizations partnered with the city to start a Gun Violence Response Fund that will go directly to the victims and their families. The Akron Community Foundation donated $25,000, which was quickly matched by the United Way, and then city officials approved a $150,000 additional expenditure into the fund.

The outreach likely won’t stop there. Johnnie Hannah, councilman for Ward 5, where the shooting occurred, is calling for more resources that tackle gun violence and address disparities.

“We're asking those businesses and institutions to invest not only their monetary resources, but programs that will help decrease the gun violence and that has plagued our neighborhoods,” Hannah said. “We must start to have open dialogue with our youth, especially those that feel like there's no hope.”

As a reporter, I’ll work tirelessly in these coming months to inform people about this tragedy and the ongoing recovery efforts. I will be honored to help amplify the victims’ stories if they feel ready to speak.

But as an Akron resident, I also want to get more involved in my community in my free time. Even volunteering at places like the Akron Canton Regional Foodbank or environmental nonprofit Keep Akron Beautiful can help address some of the social disparities, such as poverty, that often lead to violence.

As Hannah said, I believe we also need to cultivate hope, especially in our youth.

I’m grateful for the two years I’ve spent getting to know this wonderful city. I look forward to continuing to inform the community as a journalist and, as a neighbor, working together with my fellow Akronites in the years to come to try to bring about change, and inspire hope.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.