In the last year, it became abundantly clear there were many, many similarities between the basics of being in EMS and being in news. Someone involved in each independently may not see where the two careers share anything with each other – they both serve clear, unique roles in the community.

I could write blog after blog about how the two are similar (and probably will). In the last two days, though, it’s been proven that geography is a huge similarity. Getting around a coverage district in EMS or a coverage area as a reporter (or giving directions to those in the field as an assignment editor) are both vital parts of the jobs we have. If you can’t get there, you can’t help. I’ve found while doing some geography lessons in the orientation class, that I’m already a few steps ahead because I have a lot of landmarks down from working in news. Definitely makes things a little easier.

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Published in: on May 21, 2013 at 4:36 pm  Comments Off on  

Insane Courage

 

As I wrote on Facebook today, I have no idea how people make life-changing decisions on a whim. I know people who have decided one day they wanted to move across the country, and by the next week they were on their way. I’ve never been an impulsive decision maker. I like things planned out and controlled, and I want to think through each of the possible scenarios well before I’m ready to make a decision, especially if it could have a great impact on my life.

20 seconds

So when I walked into that office on that Friday afternoon, it took every ounce of courage and bravery I had. It was an even tougher road to actually write my resignation letter, and I took a good 15 minutes to press the send button on my email.

But I took that 20 seconds, I made that decision, and there is something great coming of it. This path has been a trail of 20 second incremements of crazy decision-making, but there truly is something amazing and wonderful coming out of it – and that’s new experiences, new career path and new challenges.

I’ve been in news in one way or another since I was 15. My English projects in high school were always newspapers, and in college my name was synonymous with the Brockport newspaper. I’ve lived and breathed news for many, many years. At 24, I would like to think that I’ve been successful in my news journey, albeit very rough at times. I love news. I love writing, and sharing people’s stories. I love getting a glimpse into someone’s life, and then being trusted to share that glimpse with the world, be it an audience of two or 2,000.

There’s no doubt that working in news has made me the adult that I’ve become. In my few years in the business, I’ve learned more about the world and the people in it than most people would learn in 20. I’ve absorbed every story I’ve worked on, learned from every person I’ve met and appreciated every opportunity I’ve been afforded.

 But there’s nothing in the life rule book that says you can’t have two dreams, and that you can’t put one dream on hold to pursue another.

Working in EMS is a dream that I never knew existed. Honestly, I knew I was good at news and that I could have a successful career in the industry … so that’s what I focused on. I never really branched out. I never experienced other jobs.

But once my newspaper closed last year – and I thought I saw my news career ending, not on my terms – good sources suggested I give EMS a try. Those good sources have become best friends and colleagues who have taught me so much about the EMS field. They fueled my desire to be a part of this.

When I shadowed them last year, well before I became a member of their community, I wrote how EMS is a labor of love. It’s not for the faint-of-heart, or for the heartless. Just for someone who wants to walk into a situation and help change the outcome.

I always believed that’s what I was doing working in news – Changing the outcome. In many ways, it does. Watchdog journalism has done a lot for many of our communities. But in the emergency scene, news isn’t going to change the outcome. People are still going to die, fires are still going to roar, suspects are still going to get away. It’s the way it goes. Adding a news camera to the mix is not going to change how any of that works, or operates. But I think for now, it’s my time to help change that outcome. We will not be able to change every outcome. Realistically, we all know that. But to know that when I show up at a scene, that I am assisting anyone – be it the patient, my partner, a family member, law or fire – and working toward a common goal … that’s what’s important, and that’s what I’ve decided to focus on for now.

 

Lt. Mike Chiapperini

Lt. Mike Chiapperini at his swearing-in ceremony, where he was promoted from a sergeant to a lieutenant for the Webster Police Department in 2010. .

A lot of this decision was fueled by the unthinkable West Webster tragedy on Christmas Eve. Lt. Michael Chiapperini was a friend of mine, a person who I worked with very closely in Webster as a reporter. For a week after his death, I couldn’t turn on the news. I admittedly had a very hard time dealing with his death. I was constantly consumed by the stories of his death, but I couldn’t help to think how his family felt. I couldn’t help but think how his coworkers at Webster Police and in the West Webster Fire Department were dealing with the barrage of news cameras or interview requests. I couldn’t help but think it wasn’t fair to make their grief our story. This was their story, not the news’. Their grief belonged to them, and we, as media, had no place to try to take an ownership of it.

So it’s time for me to take this path, and to pursue this dream. I have no idea how this is going to work out, and that’s maybe what’s most scary – but also wonderful – about it. It’s an entirely new life experience. And I can’t wait.

 

 

 

Published in: on May 20, 2013 at 2:23 am  Comments Off on Insane Courage  

Fight of my life

I’ve done a lot of fundraising for different charities, but I’ve never ever had as hard of a time getting support than for the Lupus walk, and I’m guessing it’s because it’s not one of the diseases people really know about.

My fight against lupus has been a long time coming — I’ve been sick for about six years, but only diagnosed for about six months. But in those six months, I feel like most of my energy has to go into repeatedly explaining what lupus is. The amount that the general public knows about the autoimmune disease is pitiful. I’ve seen first-hand people’s ignorance about the disease, something that has been increasingly frustrating. It’s not like telling someone you have cancer – they know what that is and are eager to help.

Lupus learnPeople don’t know that lupus is incurable, debilitating and frequently deadly from complications. The average age of death from lupus complications is TOO YOUNG. It attacks your entire body and each day is a struggle. It makes simple colds last four weeks (and counting..) It takes pill upon pill every night to get through your day. It takes a mental battle to get out of bed. It sometimes takes chemo and cancer drugs to just make it bearable — but you’re NEVER going to be cured. It’s going to be with you until the end. And it’s likely going to cause the end.

Lupus is in deep, deep need of research funds, but it’s not known enough and it’s not getting a lot of support which means more people are being diagnosed too late, if at all, and it’s too late for them. Lupus needs massive awareness to help fuel the research that is so desperately needed. It affects more people than you know.

The walk is next weekend. If you’re interested, you can donate online, or you can join us.

The Syracuse Woman Magazine and Eagle Star-Review ran my explanation of the disease this month. You can read about that here. 

Published in: on March 7, 2013 at 11:46 pm  Comments Off on Fight of my life  

Turning off the news

I turned the news off today. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that, the first time I’ve encouraged anyone to do the same. I’ve unplugged the television,

Two red ribbons to remember the two lives lost in Webster on Christmas Eve.

Two red ribbons to remember the two lives lost in Webster on Christmas Eve.

boycotted Twitter and am strongly considering ridding myself of Facebook too. For the first time since being in the news business, I see how the news consumes people. With the advent of social media, the news truly is everywhere, but it’s time to realize that it’s sometimes better to be oblivious than informed. This is one of those times.

I was in the newsroom Monday just before 7 a.m. when a national emergency services Facebook post popped up: “Active shooter at scene of house fire in Webster, NY near Rochester. At least 2 firefighters shot and being flown to ED. Scene still unsecure.” The story sucked me in. I was worried for friends in the West Webster Fire Department, many of whom I knew from my time as the Webster Post reporter. As an EMT candidate, I was worried about the first responders who shouldn’t have to face that kind of trauma at a structure fire. Shots fired aren’t supposed to happen at fires. Firefighters aren’t supposed to face that fate.

An hour later, and our sister station in Rochester is pumping out live shots and feeding back video from the scene in Webster. The fire itself was awful. I couldn’t imagine the scene. I couldn’t imagine being a first responder and knowing you had been shot at – and knowing you can’t help that fire. We didn’t know the worst yet. Soon after, our Executive Producer told me two firefighters had died, and the scene was a trap. It was an ambush on the very people there to help, not to hinder. The very life that comes to save and protect life and property had been taken.

Lt. Mike Chiapperini

Lt. Mike Chiapperini at his swearing-in ceremony, where he was promoted from a sergeant to a lieutenant for the Webster Police Department in 2010. .

But the story took its hardest toll around 11 a.m., when a single post showed on Twitter. All I saw was “Webster Police Lieutenant,” and knew it was Chip. Lt. Michael Chiapperini, a 20-plus year veteran of the Webster Police Department and West Webster Fire Department. A father of three, a life-long community servant, a public information officer and a friend to me during my time in Webster. A devastating loss for the community.

I was fresh out of college when I first met then-Sgt. Michael Chiapperini. He had invited me along for his swearing-in ceremony as a lieutenant with officer Mark Reed and now Sgt. Jason Thomas. A week or so before the ceremony, I met with him in the tables at the Starbucks at Webster Target. I had a few minutes to spare before he arrived, so I grabbed a few things in the store. With my bags by my side, I sat down to interview Sgt. Chiapperini, or Chip, as he told me he was most often called. He told me of his history in police and fire — longer than I had been alive — and how he was excited for the promotion to lieutenant. I remember him explaining how it would be difficult for him to be “stuck behind a desk” in the new role. He wanted to be out in the community, on the road, talking to people and being involved in a community that he loved. After my questions were through, he spent a good chunk of time learning about me, interviewing the interviewer. He was genuinely interested.

For the next year and a half, I spoke with him nearly daily. Clarification on the weekly police arrest reports or questions about small news tips I had received. As a hyper-local reporter, I interacted with him much more frequently than most reporters, assignment editors or producers would. With my chaotic and busy schedule, often out of the office, he and another Webster Police Officer (and West Webster Fire Department PIO) would often text or email me with news tips that he knew I wouldn’t get otherwise. In return, I made sure to be at each community event he requested. It was only fair for a PIO who went out of his way to help. After leaving Rochester media, I’ve stayed in contact with Lt. Chiapperini, emailing a quick hello or an email of condolences after a particularly violent story in the town last winter.

But Chiapperini died, alongside 20-year-old, Tomasz Kaczowka, who was also devoted to his community. Both arrived as firefighters looking to help, and both died at the hands of a man looking to take.

A friend in EMS suggested I’m having a hard time dealing with a line of duty death. “Sadly, you’ll face more,” he said, as my time in EMS continues. But I don’t think it’s the new first responder in me that’s the problem. It’s the news. Having spent the last two days in a newsroom, I couldn’t do it again today. I asked a coworker to fill in for me, so as to avoid the countless updates from media. Everyone is compelled by the unthinkable coming from the area – stories about the dead, stories about the shooter, about the residents who are returning home, about the community who is mourning two heroes.

So what do you do when the news becomes personal?

 

 

 

 

Published in: on December 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm  Comments Off on Turning off the news  

Ink in their blood

On Monday, one-by-one, journalists with ink running through their veins will have difficult conversations with management. They’ll be told their experience, wisdom and writing skills are no longer needed. Some will be offered new jobs in a new building, far away from the culture the newspaper knows in the heart of downtown Syracuse. Keeping your job doesn’t mean keeping what you know — nothing will remain the same.

But it’s not journalism that’s changing. Journalists today are the same journalists 50 years ago. News gathering hasn’t changed — how it’s reported, has. Woodward and Bernstein weren’t sharing their stories on Twitter, 140 characters at a time. But the work they were doing behind the scenes — the work that made their news, their news, is still being done. But that’s all in jeopardy, and society is to blame. Not news companies, or journalists, or the Internet. Consumers of news are to blame.

News has become so engrained in our culture we think of it as a service; a service that, for the longest time, has come easily, cheap (or free) and in great convenience. But that’s all changing, because money is running out and news is getting expensive. People are angry they have to pay for websites, or sign in with a paid account to access news stories. They’re angry costs of newspapers are going up a nominal fee — still cheaper than a cup of daily coffee. They don’t realize the work it takes to put together the news, be it print or television. There’s no outrage when the journalists who put that product together have the newspaper they love — and live — decimated beneath them. Where’s the protests, the outcry, the anger over these decisions?

Instead, we’re left with a group of journalists who bring central New York the news they need (not necessarily want, all the time), who are going to be told their services are no longer needed. In actuality, central New York never needed their services more. Consumers just aren’t recognizing that.

 

Published in: on September 30, 2012 at 12:52 am  Comments Off on Ink in their blood