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When the News Makes Love: A Reporter Reveals Humanity's Best in Challenging Times
By Michael Cogdill,
Author of She-Rain: A Story of Hope

When adultery and sex scandal make news alongside natural disaster and national debt, love can feel extinct. Even its mention as the hook for a news story takes on the echo of some ancient language, long dead, suffocated under the press of death, lies, and betrayal.

This reporter dares recall it to life -- or, more aptly said, to mind. I will take a bit of joy, taunting the cynics who claim we journalists wouldn't know the virtues of real love if we kissed them on the mouth. Actual love, in our present age, needs no one's CPR. It thrives, not as a romance novel ideal but a present comfort, never vaunting itself, but occupying the news of our day as if light through our midnight windows.

Though it needs no defense from the likes of me, I offer here some snapshot revelations of such love as I have witnessed it holding sway in my twenty-five years of covering news on television. These are real -- each a whispering of hope, cloaked in news of some terrible event or time. Each speaks a love language to our current times:

A child, watching media focus on the earthquake calamity of Haiti, decides to hold a bake sale to raise money for far-away people she does not know. Adults, inspired by her, decide to help. The money amount is microscopic compared to the millions given, yet the sale makes news nonetheless.

I answer my newsroom phone to hear a signature voice say, "Michael, this is Billy Graham, remember me?" (Few of us who've interviewed him forget his trademark humility.) In that call, he gives me a statement about the news-making death of a prominent person who had harshly criticized him. He tells me he loves the man.

A former cocaine and heroine addict loses his wife and two young children to a head-on crash involving a teenager, whose SUV drifted across a double-yellow line. The grieving widower and father immediately reaches out to the teenager's family, letting them know the boy is forgiven, that he doesn't want him carrying the burden alone. With that grieving father, the young man and his family forge a lasting friendship.

A gray-bearded man soups an old van up into a Santa sleigh. In the full red suit, he offers downtown rides at Christmastime for donations. Families flock to him, most unaware he'll use their money in high summer to help a poor village in Mexico, dressing as Saint Nicholas even in the heat. When this reporter asked why, tears come with his simple answer: Love.

In an interview about a love affair growing sweeter with age, a retired mayor tells me of his wife, a Holocaust survivor: "I never go to sleep without holding her hand."

A hairdresser, who cooks a feast in the kitchen of his salon each day, loads hot food into a van after his last appointment. He drives it under bridges where street people take shelter, giving them the hot meal and a warming ear of friendship. They love him, deeply, in return.

From apartment 911 in a federally subsidized building, an aging and unwell woman spends each week preparing a banquet of her own. Every Friday, she loads it into a pair of shopping carts and delivers meals to 150 or so of her neighbors. She knows they will do without if she doesn't do something. She is, quietly, adored.

Seeing the TV news story of an 85-year-old World War II veteran, who still had to work because he lost his retirement, people pour goodwill onto him and his wife -- food, money, gratitude. Out of their need, an extended family grows.

A small North Carolina town hears that a soldier lost his life to a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq. The town doesn't know him, barely knows his family, yet lines the street in American flags, turning out into the cold by the hundreds to honor his sacrifice. Strangers love his family through that unique form of heartbreak.

In a tiny barber shop, men gather to play music and chat. In an interview about the fun of it all, tears suddenly rise. In celebration of their jam-session bond, one man speaks of those friends as if they are the very best of family. Rising above machismo, he makes clear his love for them.

A young athlete, on his final run of the season, falls off his skis, headlong into a tree. His broken neck paralyzes him from the neck down. Instead of fleeing, his girlfriend marries him, and quite by accident helps him discover an artistic talent that was there all along. He becomes a prominent mouth painter. They forge a love affair beyond words.

Strangers shower love onto my wife, Jill, and me, having heard news of our heartbreak. As she grew gravely ill from cancer and kidney failure, our dear golden retriever, Savannah, beckoned for the merciful death that so often comes with the adoration of a great and gentle dog. Putting her to sleep makes no news, but word spreads anyway. Viewers of the TV news I report each night reach out and brace us through a terrible time.

I offer these as they have sprung to mind in the few minutes it took to write them down here -- no order or design. They are but a touch of this reporter's experience, having watched love pour over the transoms of covering news that often seemed absent all hope. Some people might assail me as sentimental, even though the emotions here are well-earned. I would remind them we have a choice when looking at a moonless night. We may focus on the vault-like dark or a firmament of stars.

Pedro Calderon de la Barca believed love that is not madness is not love. In the ubiquity of news that seems a raging stream of insanity, awash in betrayal and our stunning capacity to harm one another, here's to love as the passion that makes us deeply human -- and truly humane -- after all. If such love is lunacy, count this writer in.

© 2010 Michael Cogdill, author of She-Rain: A Story of Hope

Author Bio
Michael Cogdill is blessed as one of the most honored television storytellers in America. His cache of awards includes 24 Emmys and the National Edward R. Murrow for a broad range of achievement, from live reporting to long-form storytelling. His television credits as a journalist include CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and The Today Show, and Michael's interview history crosses a wide horizon: The Reverend Billy Graham, Dr. Mehmet Oz of Oprah fame, Dr. Henry Kissinger, Abby Hoffman, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator John McCain, Howard K. Smith, James Brown, Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops and many other newsmakers. His coverage credits include Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States.

Michael spent ten years writing She-Rain, letting it evolve into a world of fiction drawn from his upbringing in Western North Carolina but reaching far beyond. His other writing credits are Cracker the Crab and the Sideways Afternoon -- a children's motivational book, and a self-help volume, Raise the Haze. Michael makes his home in South Carolina with his wife, Jill (a publishing entrepreneur), and their second-generation golden retriever, Maggie. He's currently working on his second novel.

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