Senior Editor, Print, The Las Vegas Sun
Las Vegas, NV
When I was working at The Los Angeles Times I got a call one morning there had that there had been a car accident in the mountains above Los Angeles involving five - no six teenagers in a car that had gone over the side. All six were killed. They were leaving a rave – an overnight kind of concert. And [I] don’t know what caused the accident, but all six were killed, and it happened on my beat. It was part of my area that I covered.
I had to track down five – go knock on the doors of five of the homes of the teenagers who passed away – who died. And I had to – I chose to – be vulnerable, to not just hug them and let them cry, and they opened up their teenagers’ scrapbooks and their yearbooks and shared them with me. They needed immediately to talk to somebody. Whether it was cathartic or just wanting to share these memories. Five homes in a row – I would spend an hour or more letting them talk to me about their children who had just died the night before. And I shared my concerns – as a father raising a teenage daughter who had been skydiving. And how quickly life can go.
I think that that story showed me that journalism is a lot more than going to a city Council meeting or interviewing Grace Slick, or covering an election. That you touched the lives of people, and there’s times when you need to let down your mask as a reporter who is not interested and you have the sense of neutrality.
There’s times when you don’t need to be neutral.
You can be sympathetic or you can be angry. And the humanity of the reporter needs to come out. And I think that that’s when I realized that a big part of what a reporter brings to the industry – the profession – is not just a coolness when you need to be cool and calculating in terms of what to write, but you also need to bring compassion and empathy to be supportive. And sometimes being there for somebody is as important as getting the story and walking out with something in your notebook.
And that day I went home exhausted – emotionally drained – and my wife hugged me. It was tough. But that’s when I realized a journalist touches a lot of lives.