A gift for Charleston

Let’s get this out of the way at the start: Nobody is going to feel sorry for journalists. They made the choice to get into the business they’re in. We get that.

But here’s some breaking news: Journalists feel, which is one of the reasons they got into the business they’re in. They hurt the same way other people do. They hurt when they miss their kids’ birthdays or T-ball games or anniversary dinners or the moments that can never happen again.

They hurt when someone walks into a church and slaughters nine of their neighbors.

“They were choking back tears and choking back emotion to go out and do the job, but they went out and did it,” Mitch Pugh, the Post and Courier of Charleston’s executive editor, tells the New York Times today.

And they’re still doing it because big stories demand long hours away from family.

Sometime today, three boxes like the one below will arrive in that newsroom, which won a Pulitzer this year for public service. They were sent off from a newsroom in St. Paul. They’re full of trinkets, a reminder to the humans therein that there’s an appreciation for the sacrifice that makes an informed citizenry possible.

Someone crocheted a small Trojan figure, someone else added Nerf toys, granola bars, a stone Buddha, nut goodies, honey sticks from the farmers market, bags of Caribou and Twin Cities blend coffees and beans from local coffee shops, and a bobblehead of the Cleveland Indians mascot. Mint condition, by the way.

“The whole thing was a collective effort, with a quiet, thoughtful show of heart — and solidarity,” said the journalist who organized the effort and didn’t want to be named.

It’s a nod to the daily miracle — the local newspaper. “I get the sense that that paper is one of those rare gems left — the local paper that still considers itself an integral part of the community, and acts that way,” she said.

She comes by the admiration honestly. Her first time in a newsroom was at a Virginia newspaper the day a gunman killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007.

“At one point, the editor said, in a little huddle in the middle of the newsroom, that everything we’d do in our coverage would happen with the understanding that we’d still be there — when the satellite trucks left, and when the national reporters swooped on to the next thing, and when Nancy Grace stopped calling, we’d be the ones left and we’d be the ones whose work our people would remember, and who needed to get it right — and not just factually, but emotionally and otherwise.”

It’s fashionable these days to dismiss the work of journalists. Thousands of them have lost their jobs and many communities have lost their newspapers. Too many people in America are comfortable with their ignorance.

But there’s a kid or two somewhere in Charleston whose parent didn’t show up at their game this week.

The rest of us are better off because of it.

So, thanks. Here’s some shortbread.