A Word to the Wise – By Chad Williamson


Tomorrow’s front page

With this column, I am going to do something I have never attempted on the editorial page. I’m going to promote a story we haven’t printed yet.
It is a story about the issue of suicide in the area and it deserves to be read. It will appear on Saturday’s front page and readers will probably think it “feels” different than other stories we write.
I don’t want to steal the thunder of the piece, but the story contains a lot of emotion and is intensely personal to us at the Journal-Tribune. Reporter Mac Cordell crafted a heart-breaking story that looks at the issue from both a family and community-wide level. We toiled over the piece from a writing and editing standpoint because we cared so much about it.
“This is the kind of story that makes me wish I was a better writer,” Cordell said this morning, expressing his desire create the best possible story.
While we cover tragedy on a routine basis at this newspaper, we tend to approach such pieces with detached, fact-based reporting. This example of storytelling is very much ground level.
One source allowed us into their personal space, so to speak. In the interest of bringing change, they allowed us to take notes as they relived painful days. The details are powerful and sad. The reflections are a punch in the stomach.
A drawing that will appear with the story is particularly disturbing. It is a glimpse into the mind of someone with depression. We encourage readers to take the time to really study the image, because it needs to be absorbed.
The article is longer than most that we print, but it deserves every column inch. The extra space was needed to flesh out the details of the story. Readers should know that the story was originally double the size that will appear in tomorrow’s paper.
We discussed chopping it up into a series of articles, but despite its length, it is a fast read. I believe people will be pulled into the story. Readers should approach it like a tall slide at a park. It looks intimidating at first, but you will be glad you took the journey at the end.
I encourage readers to take the time to read the entire article and truly digest its pain.
As with all stories, we hope the piece stirs conversation in the community. We hope the sad details can eventually foster some positive change, not only in the way the community approaches mental health issues, but also in the way we treat each other.
Empathy and civility are free and we can all do better.
-Chad Williamson is the managing editor at the Journal-Tribune.

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