Story loyalty

To begin, I apologize. I’ve had this post saved for weeks, and I just haven’t fleshed it out. It consists of 3 thoughts in their very initial stages:

– chuck – come to fruition

* belonging

– bradley — wanting to see trial until the end.

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Cryptic, right? Doesn’t that leave you wanting more?

Now to explain.

There are certain types of stories that reporters love to tell. It varies, depending on who you are. I’m not going to tell you what my favorite type is because I’m just like that. I don’t really have favorites. Moving on.

Despite the draw towards crime or fluff, if a reporter starts a story that’s fairly significant… he/she wants to see it to the end. I believe in what I call story loyalty (\ˈstȯr-ē ˈlȯi(-ə)l-tē\) – a bond and faithfulness to an event, person or newsworthy item and the commitment to see it through to its fruition and/or conclusion.

Now back to the 3 fragmented thoughts.

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Chuck Campbell has become a friend of mine after I first began covering his battle against COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) a few years ago. I wasn’t the first and only person at WMDT to cover his story, but as the years went on, more of my colleagues left, and I was one of 3 original reporters who had met with Chuck to hear his determination to buy a new pair of lungs. By 2011, he and his friends and supporters had raised the $1M needed and a few months in, he received a double lung transplant. As soon as I heard – I felt my heart leap. THIS was why we had been following his endeavor for years.

Throughout the weeks of recovery that followed, I kept in touch with Chuck through phone and Facebook. When he finally, finally came back home, I was off the clock… in fact, he was getting back to his house in Milford, Del., at a time I was normally getting ready for bed. But even though I wasn’t the one who would ultimately turn the story for our 6 p.m. newscast, I drove the hour there and back… and was the only non-family and non-media welcomer for Chuck.  It was a privilege.

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Essentially, there are times where you belong to a story. You don’t own it. It owns you. In fact, after the work day is done, you’re still lingering on how you could’ve written it better, what else you want to know and if you can follow up tomorrow. If you’re lucky, there’s a way to keep the story going. If you’re unlucky, it keeps going for years. But it won’t let you rest until you’ve done it justice.

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The last fragmented thought was of the Dr. Earl Bradley case. I was one of the first reporters to hear of the crimes the Lewes pediatrician committed. I was the first to read the counts and charges that were brought against him. I attended the announcement of the 100+ victims he had abused. It all made me sick.

Bradley was arrested in December 2009. He was brought before a judge in June 2011. By then, I was gone. Even in the months leading up to it, my heart ached to cover his trial… but I knew I wouldn’t because I was (1) the morning anchor and (2) planning on leaving. It sounds almost disturbing, even to me, to write this, but I yearned to be a part of our coverage. Yes, yearned.

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In the end, I let it go, and I will keep cutting the ties. News is a business, after all. You can’t take it home with you all the time.

But therein I realized what story loyalty was all about.

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