Wednesday, August 3, 2011

When Work and Emotions Collide

I was recently asked to work on a tribute video for the late Jennings Osborne that was played at his funeral. What a honor. But I must say it was one of the most emotional projects I have ever worked on. Here's why.

I had pitched a story idea several weeks back about doing a story on Jennings knowing that he had spent several months in the hospital following a heart surgery. His daughter Breezy loved the idea and we were both surprised when her mom, Mitzi, also agreed. It took us a couple of weeks to set up an interview time that worked for everyone. We chose Monday afternoon, July 25. The interviews went so well! Breezy and Mitzi were very forthcoming and shared all about their father/husband. Channel 7 has done lots of stories over the years and our Assistant News Director Rusty Mizell had pulled dozens of archive tapes. I worked on the story all day Monday so that the editor, our other Assistant News Director Kenny Reynolds, could work on it Tuesday, which was the day it was supposed to air. I'm not sure if I should call it good timing or bad timing... but on Tuesday, I started getting texts and phone calls about how Jennings had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. I was stunned. He had been in the hospital for 100 days. He had good days and bad days but no one saw this coming. And Breezy and Mitzi had sounded so hopeful, just one day before, that he would recover and walk out of that hospital. It really was reminiscent of when my dad was so sick six years ago. We were so hopeful that he would pull through... but the cancer, and especially the chemo, was just too much. I remember going back home to South Dakota after getting one of those kinds of phone calls after he had taken a turn for the worse. My husband and I quickly got in the car and did the 12-hour drive home. The next day, my dad started to do better. He started breathing on his own and even got out of ICU. I remember so well sitting in his hospital room watching a Twins game and holding hands. After three days we decided it was time to come back home. My dad never wanted to be a burden and was very adamant about giving me "roots" and "wings." After about seven hours on the road... another phone call. This one much more dire. We immediately turned around, drove seven hours back home, and barely made it there for his last breath.
I felt all these emotions come back as the news grew dim about Jennings. But this time there was a professional side to me that also knew I had a job to do. I knew I couldn't air the story the way it was written. Knowing what we knew, I did not feel comfortable sharing the story I had written which was mostly about how much hope they had that he would be okay. So Tuesday afternoon we re-wrote it. It wasn't doom and gloom but it was more of a serious tone. We called it "Prayers Needed for Jennings Osborne." The story turned out beautifully. And the family loved it. Breezy even said that Jennings got to see it. That warmed my heart. Then on Wednesday, we knew the end was near. As a news station, we were ready for what would be one of the biggest stories for our state. As a daughter that had lost her own dad, I was fighting back tears all day. Then when we got the call that Jennings had died, I walked into my news director's office and told him. My eyes filled with tears. He asked if I wanted someone else to do the "breaking news" cut in. I said no. I wanted to do it. I pulled myself together and did it. The least I could do was let the state know that it had lost one of its most well-known and well-liked philanthropists. After that, looming deadlines took over. We hustled and got the story ready for our 5pm and 6pm news and our website. I was ready for the 5pm report and got through the entire story fine until I got the last part. I decided to read a statement from Breezy that she had just released. I hadn't even read the entire thing prior to the newscast. As I got to these words "...Sadly my father's big heart finally gave out. But knowing my 'Dadoo', there will be fireworks at the gates of Heaven...." I could barely hold it together. My voice started to quiver and I quickly tossed back to Beth and Scott. At that point, I couldn't hold it together any longer. I was very thankful that I was in our studio with only one other person and not in our newsroom... surrounded by people. I went straight to the ladies room and let the tears roll. Although Jennings was a great giver to many people in our state, I was more affected by the loss a daughter was suffering. Especially a daughter that was a self-proclaimed "Daddy's girl" which is exactly what I am... and forever will be.

When the family asked me to work on a video for the funeral... I was so humbled. Not only did they enjoy the work I had done on the first story but they trusted me to put together something that would be seen by those who knew him best. I am so thankful for the help my co-workers gave me as well as the awesome editing skills by Kenny Reynolds. I hope we made you proud, Jennings!

Click here for more of our stories on Jennings Osborne.