Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another column

I have been busy

When I first started writing this column in January of 2005 the intent was to keep readers up to date on what is happening at The Marion Star. I wanted to let people in on the way we make decisions on what we cover, what we don't cover and why we do the things we do.

I also wanted to add a human element.

Often the decisions I make are based on past experience. I have worked in the media business since 1985. I have been a reporter, a radio DJ, a sports broadcaster, a paginator, a photographer, a paste-up artist, a photo-tech, an online editor, an assistant managing editor, and a managing editor.

Nearly every day, we make a decision about one thing or another that calls on experience. It might be something big, like how we are going to pursue a story or something small, like how best to crop a photo.

My personal experience comes into play as well. We all have lives outside our place of work. We have families and friends that color our lives and alter our perspectives.

Almost every decision requires you to think like a journalist and call upon your experience and knowledge to make sound ethical judgments, but you also have to think like a reader and call upon your experience has a father, friend and community member.

It might be journalistically sound to reveal the name of a juvenile offender, but the father in you tells you that the name can wait while more of the story is pursued.

Nothing changed my perspective on how I run this office more than the cancer diagnosis I received almost three years ago.

I don't think there is anybody in my field that hasn't contemplated the possibility of dropping dead at their desk.

Anxiety is a byproduct of our work. So is stress and emotion. We also spend a lot of time at our desks, exercising only our fingers, and the meals we gulp down at our desks are hardly the most healthy available

This job might eventually kill me. If it does, we'll be even, because in 2006 this job saved my life.

I was writing an editorial about colon cancer. March is, after all, Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. As part of the editorial I started to list the symptoms of colorectal cancer.

As I transferred the symptoms from the American Cancer Society's Web page into the editorial, I checked them off in my mind.

I had enough of the symptoms to get me worried.

Taken separately, the symptoms are common enough and explainable. It was not until I saw them listed together that I thought maybe something more than my diet was causing me problems.

Getting beat up with radiation and chemotherapy, months of anticipating major surgery and learning to live with a body that has been altered forever changes you.

It doesn't take the fight out of you, but it makes you consider what you are fighting about and for.

It makes you want to get things done now, but it also makes you want to slow things down and savor every moment.

The ethics of journalism don't change. Decisions based solely on journalistic principles are the same today as they were three years ago. It's the gray areas where your life experience comes into play that we find changes.

Cancer Survival

Speaking of cancer survivors I had the opportunity to meet Mary Miller this week. Mary has just completed her cancer treatment and she is moving full steam ahead. Mary is a comedian, a comedy consultant and a singer/songwriter.

You have two chances to see her locally in the next few weeks.

On Sunday March 15 she will be hosting a comedy show at Bluefusion. You can call 740-386-4255 for more information.

On Thursday, March 19 you can see her at our Laughs and Lipsticks Expo at Marion Centre (formerly Southland Mall).

Mary and I shared our cancer stories with each other. We both talked about the people we met, the help we received, the acts of kindness from friends, families, nurses, doctors and strangers. I am going to bet that Mary's cancer has influenced her work just like it has mine.

The basics we learned from years of experience are still there and still important. Our cancer experience has given us a profound view of the world that we didn't and couldn't have had before.

We're not smarter or better, but we are changed forever.

Tom Graser is the managing editor of The Marion Star. You can contact him at 740-375-5107 or tgraser@marionstar.com

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