I remember the day my daughter told me she might be interested in a journalism career. I was shocked. After all, I and her mother -- also a newspaperwoman -- had tried mightily to convince her to pursue something more lucrative and less corrosive to your personal life. Now, in retrospect, we should have encouraged her to go into newspapering if we'd ever hoped that she wouldn't.
But she did. She studied photojournalism in the best journalism school in America (maybe the world) at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and is now a professional news photographer in Utah. She's traveled to Europe, and Central and South America, studied with Pulitzer Prize-winner Eddie Adams, and is just starting her career.
Dads worry about daughters (and sons) ... especially if Dad knows the lengths to which a journalist must sometimes go on a news assignment. I was mildly worried when she was shooting in the slums of Ecuador and El Salvador, but I knew Ashley was nothing if not careful.
Besides, I wasn't exactly the best role model. I'd wandered around the Middle East after 9/11, flown in a stunt plane, gone hunting for radical militiamen in backwoods Montana (after which a bullet hole was found in the back panel of my Jeep), spent the longest night of my life at the scene of a grisly murder, and stumbled into the middle of a store robbery after beating cops to an emergency call ... all to get a story.
When Ashley told me she'd been sent to Monday's mall shooting in Salt Lake City, I shuddered like an Accountant Dad, not a Newspaperman Dad. Why was she taking such risks? Couldn't they use wire photos? What imbecile editor was sending my sweet little girl to a mass murder?
But the Newspaperman Dad took charge. Did she get the shot? What obstacles to access did she have at the scene ... and how did she get around them? What did she do differently from everyone else? Did she zig when they zagged? What questions did she answer for readers with her camera?
When we finally talked about it and I saw her grim photos of death and fear, I was neither the Accountant Dad nor the Newspaperman Dad. I was just Dad.
"Are you doing OK?" I asked her.
"I cried," she said. "But I'm OK now."
Mother and child leaving shooting scene (Photo by Ashley Franscell)