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Human Kind(ness)

A letter from the editor of our April 2017 issue.

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Although rarely at the top of any list of the most respected professions, journalism has recently been denigrated in a way that is unprecedented in the 17 years I’ve been in the industry. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump referred to the “fake news media” as “the enemy of the American people” in a tweet that surely would have appalled First Amendment father Thomas Jefferson. Even if Trump was being hyperbolic, his pronouncement compelled me to share a little bit about how senior staff writer Robert Sanchez’s heartrending feature about opioid addiction came together over the past few months (“Sometimes You Have To Build A Wall Around Your Heart”). Part of an editor’s job is to sense a writer’s mindset, and I could tell this story was tough on Sanchez. Indeed, in the course of his reporting, Sanchez’s interactions with Stacy Pettersen, a 62-year-old struggling with heroin addiction, moved well beyond the typical reporter-subject relationship. “One afternoon,” Sanchez told me, “my phone rang. Stacy was in withdrawal and afraid she wouldn’t live to see another year. I was taking notes, but I was trying to be supportive, too. After I hung up, I cried.” My point, simply, is that reporters like Sanchez are not enemies of the American people. They are humans themselves; flawed and imperfect, yes, but working to tell honest stories that help us better understand our neighbors, our communities, and ourselves. Sanchez and the thousands of other deeply compassionate journalists in this country writing similarly challenging narratives shouldn’t be demonized for doing their very difficult jobs—they should be encouraged and applauded.

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