A Stressful Situation
By Don Campbell
Don Campbell is a lecturer in journalism at Emory University and a former Washington reporter, editor and columnist.
W hile dealing with an ethics scandal in their newsrooms, editors must contend with an additional problem?personal stress.
"It's something you take home with you," says Frank Caperton, executive editor of the Indianapolis Star, who dismissed TV columnist Steve Hall for plagiarism in September. "You're making a decision that will leave someone's professional life in tatters. It's stressful, but then again, like one of my staff said: 'That's why they're paying you the big bucks.' "
Former Cincinnati Enquirer Editor Lawrence K. Beaupre, who was transferred to Gannett headquarters in the wake of the Chi-quita meltdown, says wearily: "It's hard to handle on a personal level. You have to try to keep things in perspective. Get exercise. Most important is the support network of family and friends."
"Each case is different," says Boston Globe Editor Matthew V. Storin, who had to wrestle with controversies swirling around columnists Patricia Smith and Mike Barnicle in 1998. "But people at the top have to make sure that the people most under stress are being offered help. They've got to realize what these people are going through. Beyond that, you need good family and friends and colleagues.
"For a great period of time," he adds, "it becomes what you're known for. But time does make a difference. The best thing for getting through a crisis is putting out a good newspaper."