The editor's seat is your's this morning.
There has just been a mass school shooting in the area. A crazed gunman has entered the school, pulled out one of the several guns strapped around his shoulder and began shooting. More than two dozen students and school employees are dead.
Chaos is everywhere you turn. Terror is in the eyes of everyone you see.
ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and all other national media outlets are on the way to town. Suddenly, you're working on the biggest story that most of your staff will cover.
You've dispatched a team of reporters and photographers to the scene and are already in the office discussing the need to add pages to tomorrow's edition. You're planning coverage and how it will be displayed in the paper and online.
You may not have the resources the national media companies are bringing to town, but this is your newspaper's story. You want all the information, and you want it first. Mostly, you want the information to be accurate.
That mechanism most journalists possess has automatically clicked in. You tuck away your emotions from seeing this horror and focus on the job. It's the same trigger emergency workers possess.
Somewhere during the mass confusion, you're told by police in charge that family members are off limits.
After wondering briefly why they would tell you not to talk to the families when they know it's not illegal, you again focus on the job and a crucial element in the story.
What do you do? It's not an easy call.
Asking questions of a parent or someone who has just lost a loved one is probably the toughest thing a reporter faces. You hate the thought of doing it. You don't know if someone is going to slug you, cuss you or hug you. Part of you says: "How can you be so insensitive? This is personal, so leave them alone." The other part knows emotions are key elements of this tragedy.
Most will probably say I'm wrong, but the decision from here is that you've got to make the attempt. You are respectful. You show compassion for what they are going through and then you ask the question. And this is one of those cases where "no" absolutely means "no."
I guarantee, regardless of the reaction, it will be one of those moments you will process internally when the story is written and you allow yourself to feel again.
Mike Goens is the TimesDaily managing editor. He can be reached at mike.goens@TimesDaily.com.