My last day of work at KEZI was nearly a week ago, last Friday. On Sunday, the morning show crew and a few other evening folk gathered for a fun breakfast in downtown Eugene to say goodbye to me, and the morning show editor Michelle.
But the days leading up to that were far from fun for the newsroom. I ended work on Thursday anticipating a fun, easy day of work on Friday. Our morning show reporter was going to have his first package on the show, a fun story about a haunted maze in the area. My replacement was doing a great job producing, and I expected to have little to do on Friday.
Later Thursday morning, I returned home from the laundromat and got on to social media while snacking as usual. And there it was on Facebook: "Report of a gunman at Umpqua Community College". UCC is about an hour south of me, in our viewing area. I quickly move to Twitter, to see our sister station in Portland posting that at least 10 dead. And my vision of an easy work day the following day is gone.
Friday was for me the hardest work day yet. I think the majority of journalists never have their major local story also be the biggest national story of the day. The majority of journalists never have to cover a mass shooting. We were tasked with compiling all the information: the story, the reaction, the heartbreak, the president speaking out. And while I look back on my hard Friday, of throwing out our usual morning show template and trying to squeeze in the whole story, a live report, and a live interview, I can't even imagine what it was like in the newsroom on Thursday. It was basically wall to wall coverage. From what I've seen, our reporters did amazing work, both Thursday and the days that followed. My friend Sarah did an amazing live interview with the Douglas County Sheriff at 5:45 a.m. Friday morning, running on just a few hours of sleep. Our typical morning show reporter, Oscar, did a fabulous job covering a live press conference at the top of the 6 a.m. show, also on hardly any sleep, and just a few weeks into his first reporting job.
I thought my last day at my first job would be one I'd never forget simply because it was my last day, but now I'll always have an even deeper memory of it. Overall, I had a great learning experience at KEZI, and nothing more so than that final day. It's been strange to see the rest of the coverage of the UCC shooting unfold without being part of it, but I am proud of the work I did to cover the story, and the work KEZI and the rest of these small market Oregon stations will continue to do.