Life#039;s difficult tasks can often be most worthwhile

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

People ask all the time, "What is the worst part of being a journalist?" Often they have a few ideas of their own.

"I bet it is the long hours and being on call at all hours of the night," some will say. "Or, maybe it is having to come up with ideas and write stuff all the time." "But what about seeing gruesome car accident scenes, I bet that is bad," others say.

While all these issues can sometimes pose challenges, every job is like that and ours' is no different. But none of these compare to the absolute worst thing any reporter has to do: Call a family member after a loved one has passed away.

Email newsletter signup

Without a doubt, this is the most difficult and heart-wrenching thing any reporter has to do. The situation will vary, and some are more difficult than others, but each time it is something that leaves a journalist feeling hurt.

But likewise, each time, talking with someone who has just suffered a great loss also illustrates why we decided to enter this field in the first place.

Each journalist could tell you why it is important to him or her.

Good journalists, especially those working for a newspaper, want to tell stories that mean something to people and that can make a difference in someone's lives.

Memorializing someone's life, making sure they are not just another statistic or number, may be one of the most vital ways to accomplish this. It is never fun and often difficult, but most of the time families understand why it is necessary.

It would be nice if we could write something about every person who passes away in our community because everyone is unique and has a story, but that would be impossible.

Newspapers typically report on deaths that are either public-related, involve prominent members of the community or someone who has touched the lives of many people for one reason or another.

Not allowing things like this to go unnoticed honors the person's memory and shows the community the true effects of issues facing our society including crime, drugs and war.

Recently, one of Ironton's own, David Ford IV, was killed while serving in Iraq. The 20-year-old's life was cut tragically short, leaving countless friends and family in the community hurting inside.

It would be an injustice to Ford to allow his death to go unnoticed or simply be encapsulated in a small obituary. It was vital to allow family members to tell others in the community who this young man was, what he meant to them and to show that the soldiers fighting overseas are not just nameless, faceless troops.

David Ford died a hero, serving our nation. He deserved to be treated like no less. So began the unenviable task of calling his family.

Ford's mother, Violet, made every effort to talk from California during the unimaginably difficult time. The 3,000 miles between us did little to diminish the hurt in her voice.

Minutes later, she struggled to talk through the tears. I struggled to write. But, at least a tiny fragment of David's story was told.

The story sparked countless phone calls and e-mails of support for the family and expressions of gratitude for honoring the young man's memory.

This was proof to me that this was something worth doing. Sometimes, the most difficult tasks can be the most worthwhile.

Michael Caldwell is the managing editor at The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at