Tough separating job from life sometimes

Story by Chris Graham

When you’re a news reporter – print, radio, TV – it comes with the job that sometimes you have to rush to the scene of a car accident or fire or some other such catastrophe to tell folks what is going on.
And it doesn’t make it any easier that it’s your job – and that you’ve had to do it before; even if you’re a veteran reporter like Ken Slack, the Augusta County bureau chief for NBC29, and you’ve had to do this many, many times.

“You don’t want to be there. You feel like a vulture most of the time,” Slack told me – and I can echo the sentiments.

We were talking for the story that we did in the January 2008 edition of The New Dominion magazine about life in the TV-news business. I had just asked Ken to talk to me about a most memorable story – assuming that he would go into detail on coverage of a prominent politician or celebrity or a feature piece on a local hero or something of that nature.

I could tell, though, from the way his smile slowly faded and his voice began to trail off that he wasn’t thinking in that direction.

“There is one in particular that has always stuck out in my mind. It was about four or five years ago,” Slack said, before going into the story of a Stuarts Draft High School senior who was killed in a car accident the day of his high-school graduation. The usually-steely Slack admits to having had trouble processing the story that he was to report to TV viewers. Most of the time when you go to those kinds of things, whether it’s a fire, and a family is there huddled up as they watch their home go up, or a fatal accident, you’re there doing your job, and there’s almost this shield, because you have to focus on what shots to shoot, or what information you need to get, and there has to be this disconnect. But there are times – and that was one of those times – when that was very difficult. Because for some reason, just the circumstances of it – just this complete senseless tragedy – that one got to me,” Slack said.

“You’re not human if it doesn’t get to you every once in a while. I hope it always bothers me when I have to do this stuff,” Slack said.

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press and The New Dominion.

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