The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 8, 2014

Murray: Giving thanks for good stories

Don’t let the photo that runs along with my column fool you.

As much as my behavior may suggest otherwise, I am not young. I’ve been at The Free Press since Sept. 11, 1995, and I’ve got the gray hair to prove it. In that time I’ve covered everything. I spent seven years covering the police beat, another seven covering higher education, briefly covered entertainment, have been the back-up reporter for K-12 schools. I’ve covered city and county government issues, visited the Capitol to talk to lawmakers.

Nothing, though, has been as rewarding as covering health care.

When a reporter takes a new beat, they get a little time to sort of carve out their own way of covering it. And when we decided I’d be starting a beat called “health and wellness,” I wondered what I’d be able to make of it.

What happened is that I approached things the way I always have: light on process, procedures and policies, heavy on human stories.

Just in the last few months the kinds of stories that have come across my desk have been nothing short of astounding.

The other day I met a young man who, with his best years ahead of him, learned he had bone cancer. I sat down with him and his mother as they told me about the heartbreak in hearing that diagnosis. The young man’s story was one of triumph, though, as he is now happy and cancer free. Also, by now he’s busy going through the haul he made on his Make-A-Wish Foundation shopping spree at the Mall of America.

A couple of weeks ago I interviewed a woman who had just lost her son to cancer. They’d planned a benefit to help him, but he didn’t made it that far. Undeterred, mom decided to go ahead with the benefit anyway. Hearing her talk about her son that day was something I’ll never forget. I sat there with the phone lodged between my ear and shoulder feverishly transcribing her every word. Those awkward silences she heard were me struggling to hold it together, having just heard her describe what it was like to watch her boy die.

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