No, not the death of this blog, which is (somewhat) still alive and kickin’.
I’m talking about the actual kind. I’ve been at the Tracy Press for six months now (I know, that flew by. Shouldn’t I still be trying to crash a rhetoric course right now?) and my career as a news reporter has involved much more death and destruction than my previous life as a sports guy.
When I cover a loss in sports, there’s a winner. When I cover stories like this, there are no winners. A young man has lost his life. A mother has lost her son. A community has lost a loved member.
And here I am, feeling like a schmuck, asking family members for interviews, knowing it’s got to be done. Trust me, this isn’t something I enjoy. Neither is this, or this or this. In the same way I can feel for a player who just knocked a big home run or the whiplashed pitcher, I feel for the victims of these stories. I don’t ask to talk to these people as a way to drudge up bad memories, causing fights or making their situations worse. This is just what I’m called to do.
The story about Danny Ruf, the Tracy man in training to join the Marines, was tough because well… we’re the same age. He graduated in 2005, I graduated in 2004. We’re both 22. Youth lends itself to a sense of invincibility. I don’t think much about my own death because in my own consciousness, it’s still decades and decades away. If you ask me today, I’m going to die an old man with my children and loved ones at my side, having secured a few Sportswriter of the Year awards and maybe even a Pulitzer. We’re taught that as young people, the future is the only real currency we have.
This was probably the part of the job I was least prepared for. I consider myself, for all intents and purposes, a nice guy. I know that after something tragic happens, the last person these people want to talk to is probably me. I feel like a pest most times, but I’m getting better at putting those feelings aside and covering these things in the most humane yet newsworthy way possible. Trust me, I know what people think of reporters. Many times, I feel the same way too.
Most news stories, I can handle. Rash of harmless (to people, anyway) fires? Got it. Coverage of a community event? No biggie. Talking to widows and parents who just lost their child? I’m still working on this. I laugh when I think that I used to fret about going over to a losing coach. Getting drubbed by four touchdowns seems like nothing now.