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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Hard work never killed anyone

When people who know me read the Freeman on a day like today (Sunday, Aug. 5, with the front-page story about the boat explosion on the Rondout Creek), they often say things like “You must have had a tough night last night” or “Gee, yesterday must have been a bear for you.”

Indeed, the workload on Saturday was both heavy and challenging -- dealing with the ever-developing story about the explosion, updating the Freeman’s Web site every 15 to 30 minutes to provide our online readers with the latest information about the incident, constantly feeding facts to the Associated Press staff in Albany so they could keep newspapers across the state abreast of the situation and, of course, tackling all the other tasks of the day that had nothing to do with the boat story but still were vital to the production of our Sunday edition.

But let’s keep some perspective here. Being the Freeman’s city editor might have been more difficult than usual on Saturday, but having to work hard while sitting in front of a computer pales in comparison to the pain experienced by Brian, Laura, Hannah, Matthew and Wyatt Dodge -- the five family members from East Fishkill who were badly burned, and easily could have been killed, in the boat explosion. And no matter how well I did my job on Saturday, I can’t hold a candle to the people who were near the explosion scene and rushed to the aid of the injured family members. I handled words, photos and Web postings; these people saved lives.

Similarly, I remember friends and relatives asking me after the 9/11 terror attacks and after the February 2005 shooting at Hudson Valley Mall near Kingston whether I was OK and whether I was drained from all the work involved in putting out the papers that featured those horrible events. Well, yeah, of course I was drained -- downright exhausted, to be more accurate -- but so what? I mean all I had to do was sit in the Freeman newsroom for more hours than usual and juggle more stories, photos and pages than I ordinarily would. It’s not like I lost a loved one in the twin towers, put my life in danger to save others on that awful September day or got shot while shopping for home electronics at Best Buy on that frightful winter afternoon.

Put simply, I got off easy -- on Sept. 11, 2001, on Feb. 13, 2005, and on Aug. 4, 2007.

Do we media types work hard when tragedy strikes? Sure. But it’s worth remembering in those situations that the people we’re covering are having a much worse day than we are.



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