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Journalists are not immune from the grief we cover. Sometimes we are carrying our own, personal sadness even as we do our best to represent the people and the communities we serve and the very real trauma we cover.

This has never been more true than it has this past year. We barely got over throwing every resource we had at covering the Decker Fire (a seven-day-a week, week-after-week task just as the firefighters and first responders experienced, for which we received three Colorado Press Association awards for excellence) when we began to move into training to cover what we expected would be (and has been) a brutal 2020 election where fact-based news media have been on the front lines of truth.

Then on Dec. 11, a year ago today, I got a gut-punch that rocked my world. My big brother Larry, died suddenly and without warning. With no apparent health issues, he was a fourteener-climbing, guitar-playing, double-black-diamond skier who skied the last day of the 2018-2019 season with me at Monarch.

I got the news something had happened, sitting in the Buena Vista Clinic waiting for a prescription for a sinus infection. He’d been on the treadmill at the gym, making sure his deltoids were ready for the ski season. I got word of his death sitting on the bench in front of the City Market pharmacy window. Between rushing back to Wisconsin for the memorials, flying back to lead our Ark Valley Voice NewsMatch Sock Hop, flying out to Arlington, Virginia for a Christmas that changed venues overnight, I continued to lead a news team  getting the news out every day. It helps to be digital.  All I remember is the numbness. I ran out of tears.

January came and I was still deep in grief, putting one foot in front of the other. Then one morning mid-month, the old clock radio alarm switched on. Into the deep winter darkness a Colorado Public Radio feature told of this strange virus in Wuhan. China. It said they’d never seen it before, didn’t know what to do to stop people dying.  They named it novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2 and now we call it COVID-19.

That January afternoon I covered a Chaffee County meeting whose topic I can’t recall, but the room was full of housing officials, Chaffee County Public health (CCPH) and Department of Human Services and development staff. As people buzzed around us, CCPH Director Andrea Carlstrom and I happened to stand next to each other. When I asked if she’d heard about this strange virus, she nodded. Asked if she thought it was going to be serious, and would we see it here, the look on her normally sunny face darkened. She nodded again.

From that day in January literally everything I have done has been in the shadow of this virus; which plays no favorites, takes no prisoners, and cares not a wit for our humanity.  In early April, my former next door neighbors, a dear husband and wife who became my kids’ adopted Irish grandparents, died of COVID-19 within 24 hours of each other. Alone. If we thought spring was bad, we hadn’t yet seen what this virus has become.

Our AVV crew covers heartbreaking losses, such as the deaths of senior citizens at Columbine Manor. We recap the statistics, we record the fears of our small business neighbors, we give as much coverage as we can to nonprofits trying to meet ever-expanding community needs. We cover climate change and drought and wildfires, and the sometimes mundane but always vital work of our local government to meet the overwhelming challenges of 2020.

We’re working mostly out of our office, spending our lives on Zoom. We see humanity as a box on a screen. I worry, I check in with them – how are they doing? Who needs a lift today?

We try to find the good news in the midst of the darkness. We try to do it with grace and humor. We fight a seemingly endless fight against the disinformation that floods social media and has turned neighbor against neighbor, that throws horrible insults at good people, that buries good people doing their jobs in death threats. We get calls from readers about scenes at the local Natural Grocers store where a shopper refuses to wear a facemask and the checkout person is in tears; so we talk with their corporate office, we talk with the customer, the checkout person. we share what has gone on.

Coping is a daily effort for so many. I take long walks. I cook. I drink too much white wine. I call my grown children and listen for my twin granddaughter’s toddler voices. I add to the journals I’ve kept since childhood. I write poetry. I meditate. I watch old movies, the kind you cry over. Every day I focus on one thing for which I am grateful. Today — it is that my brother was my brother as long as he was here.

I am not a crier. I am a practical, facts-first person who spent years leading global marketing and products. I’ve covered tough news. But I find myself sobbing as I write this, trying to understand those who would load up good and decent people with lies about the election, about this terrible virus, about people who simply want basic human rights.

In my anger, I condemn people who spread hate and bigotry and fear. I see them make light of the situation that has our hospitals at capacity and health care workers at the breaking point. I am appalled at their refusal to do the simple things like wear a face mask and social distance to stop the spread. As if their stance has anything to do with freedom, and everything to do with their refusal to honor the responsibility we all have to each other as fellow human beings.

It’s as if these false claims of fraud about our election (and this toxic flood of disinformation IS all false. It is ALL a pack of lies) are anything but a power grab — an American version of fascist authoritarianism that aims to destroy our democracy.

But I also try to hope. Hope, that the best of humanity is going to come through. Hope that we are going to back away from the precipice of authoritarianism and remember who we are. We’re Americans and mostly we are good people. We invent things, build things, solve things. We fight for the good stuff, we fight for the underdogs, we donate and volunteer and work our butts off to help people. We come together in crisis. We do the right thing.

In the unending grief of this year, I know I am not alone in my sadness. I am not alone in my anger. I am not alone in the hope I still want to have in who we are as Americans and in our humanity, one to another.

Those of us leading news organizations in the Colorado Media Collaborative were asked to share our own struggles as we deal with this life-changing year. I know there are others like me, who have struggled with this terrible year, and your voices deserve to be heard in our ongoing On Edge series. If you have thoughts you want to share, do send us a message at 

You can read the series as it develops at

Also know that whatever you’re going through, crisis counselors and professionally trained peer specialists are available to help. Call Colorado Crisis Service’s hotline at 1-844-493-TALK(8255). There is no wrong reason to reach out.

Featured image; The four Johnson siblings: Brother Larry, Sister Lynda, AVV Managing Editor Jan (Johnson) Wondra and brother Jerol, taken at the 1870 country church in Wisconsin that our pioneer Great, Great Grandfather Tor Halverson helped found.