Boston University journalism professor Michelle Johnson was busy during Marathon Monday last year.
Johnson was coordinating the Boston University News Service’s coverage of the event from a classroom-turned-newsroom, checking in with around 20 students spread throughout the course.
By 2 p.m., the elite runners had all crossed the finish line, and the news team was finishing its live blog and Twitter coverage.
Less than an hour later, Johnson was scrambling to contact all her students and make sure everyone was safe.
“We had photographers who had pictures of bloody sidewalks and bandages and things that they had just walked away from,” Johnson told FOXSports.com. “At that point, you didn’t know who the casualties were. There were no names or anything.”
It was over an hour before Johnson could relay the message that all of her students were safe. One had been perilously close to the explosions while working on a profile piece near the finish line but was unharmed.
The tragic events spurred a discussion that Johnson had never considered: How do you keep students safe in such a situation?
“We had never had students facing that kind of risk before,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t exactly on anyone’s syllabus — how do you handle yourself when someone’s bleeding next to you? Do you stop and help or do you continue to report the story?”
While there’s no clear answer, the BU students covering the events of last year’s marathon performed in a remarkable fashion, with some of their work appearing in national media outlets, including The Boston Globe, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the tragedy.
“All of the students went out and went for it,” Johnson said. “They just started reporting. I’m sure people were scared or worried about things happening along the line, but it didn’t stop anybody.”