Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Taking stock of my profession

This has been on my mind all week. The first Canadian journalist killed in Afghanistan. 34 years old. A wonderful researcher and writer.

There have been other journalists killed, in other parts of the world. Each time I read those headlines, I think how lucky I am to work in a small corner of the country, where the most dangerous story I've covered was... hmmm, actually I have to think about that.

Community reporting, in a docile, democratic country isn't much of a risk. Michelle Lang and I are about as far apart on the journalism spectrum as vanilla and rocky road ice cream - both ice cream, but one has many more bumps and hurdles along the way.

I spent several hours on Sunday night reading the tributes to Michelle from her colleagues and friends, and the Calgary Herald did a fine job of celebrating her work and mourning her death.

Tonight, when I went to grab that link to their Jan. 2 editorial, it was already buried on the website. Because though her colleagues no doubt are still in shock, the rest of the country will not stand still while they tend to their hearts. The news keeps coming.

And bravo to them, her colleagues, for keeping up the news torch and turning out the latest headlines on the prime minister, the Olympic flame and air travel security.

In that small respect, all journalists are alike. When faced with terrible, lousy news - stupid news like four more soldiers killed in Afghanistan and young bodies found in the ashes of burnt homes (sometimes twice in one week), news that makes my insides boil with the sheer waste and tragedy of it all - we only have a few moments to process it before updating our newscasts and websites with the latest info. And when that story is done, you know what? We turn back to our desks and write another story, about food banks or potholes or the federal budget. Because deadline is looming and the press has to roll. We must be bred with some sort of immunity to depth of feeling.

And that's why Michelle Lang has been on my mind so much this week - she won't get another coup of a good story, the thrill of a great quote or the delicious feeling of breaking news before anyone else. Her death has made me think about the reporter rat-race that I live every day. Life is so fleeting. How can racing for deadlines be worth it?

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