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CBS4 News Director Offers Reasons To Give Thanks In A Difficult Year

DENVER (CBS4) - I love Thanksgiving. It's one of my favorite holidays, because it is all about gratitude. There's no gift giving or receiving, no decorations or songs. It is, simply, a time to pause and reflect on what we have to be thankful for in our lives. This year, for many in our community, giving thanks will be difficult. We have experienced a year of uncertainty, fear and loss -- a global pandemic, demonstrations for social justice, a contentious election, and a destructive wildfire season.

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For journalists, covering the big story -- and all the emotion that surrounds it -- is part of our daily work. But this year, it's personal too. Each person in our newsroom experienced the pandemic, the demonstrations, the election and the fires in a unique, personal way. The separation that typically exists between work and home was gone -- as the pain and stress reported in our stories was often felt at home as well. This perspective often informed our editorial decisions, and gave us a new appreciation for the importance of accurate information in trying times.

Kevin Hartfield
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So this year, as I pause to give thanks, I am filled with gratitude for the journalists I am honored to work with each day. Working in television news is the ultimate team sport -- so I would like to share a word of thanks for all of those who make up our team, and offer a glimpse behind the scenes at the passion and commitment that goes into producing the newscasts you see on TV every day or read about on our website.

Dillon Thomas
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First, I am thankful for our reporters and photojournalists working in the field. The things you consider "routine" are remarkable. I have seen you work long days and extra days. I have seen you take extraordinary steps to protect the health of your co-workers and the community, and I have seen you put your own safety on the line to report stories important to Colorado. I know the extra time it takes to clean your gear before and after every shift, to take inventory of the special equipment for socially distant interviews, and to make sure you're stocked up on masks and hand sanitizer. I have shared emotional Zoom calls with you as you've expressed fears of getting sick, or making someone in your family sick, as a result of exposure while on a story. A few of our field journalists did get sick themselves this year, and I know how hard it was to battle illness while isolated from loved ones -- only to go right back into the field when you recovered.

Michael Spencer in the field
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I am thankful for our producers, directors and technical crew – the people responsible for putting our newscasts on TV and CBSN Denver every day. Working from home is rarely an option because of the nature of their work. That work is high stress, under multiple daily deadlines, and typically involves a lot of close contact -- discussing, brainstorming, and arguing over stories and production; but this year, I've seen you respect social distance, wear a mask, wash hands, and clean up workspaces. I didn't think I'd ever get emotional watching someone clean their desk with a disinfectant wipe, but that happened this year -- because I know you do it out of love; because you care about each other.

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I am thankful for our news, weather and sports anchors, the "face" of our coverage on all these difficult stories. You are the epitome of professionalism -- offering serious, honest reporting and not a breathless, artificially urgent presentation. These times call for you to be at your best, because that is what our community needs. There were days when I thought that I if had to deliver the news I might just freak out on live television -- yet there you were, delivering the news with authority and compassion.

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CBS4's Alan Gionet interviews the Errington family. (credit: CBS)

I am thankful for our digital team -- 24/7 journalists working a 24/7 story. The team working on our website like to say they're "always on" because "the internet is never full." During a year of unprecedented news, with constantly developing stories, CBS4 viewers were not content to wait for the next newscast -- and our social platforms offered the very latest news and information, on demand. It may surprise you to learn that not a single member of our digital team has set foot in the newsroom since March. They developed entirely new workflows and communication systems so they could work from home, while ensuring our digital platforms never missed a single story. They didn't allow the challenging work environment to impact our product one bit -- on the contrary, has broken records for web traffic month after month -- a testament to their dedication and great work.

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I am thankful for our video editors and assignment editors, the "engine" of our content production. Like the digital team, our video editors and assignment editors developed innovative tools to edit video, gather information and communicate with the main newsroom while working from home. There have been entire shifts when we did not have a video editor or assignment editor working inside CBS4, but you certainly wouldn't know it by viewing our news content. The next time you watch a CBS4 newscast, consider that nearly all of the video you're watching was edited outside our building -- a fact that would have been impossible to believe just eight months ago.

Steve Vriesman
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I have a special place in my heart for our assignment editors -- who subject themselves to a "firehose" of information all day long, constantly working to prioritize the most important stories, chase down leads and confirm critical details. It's never an easy job, but this year has been particularly difficult given the nature of the stories we've covered. I have seen you develop an appreciation for the healing power of a good cry and a glass of wine at the end of a long day, and I look forward to one day being able to toast your extraordinary work.

Mekialaya White
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I am thankful to have a General Manager, Walt DeHaven, who fundamentally believes in news and has proven again and again that he will stand up for the toughest stories. This year, the social justice movement called upon our industry to take a hard look at diversity in our newsroom as well as unconscious bias in our coverage. Here, too, Walt has been a leader -- providing the vision and resources, and pushing us to attain that vision.

news managers
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Finally, I am thankful to the newsroom managers. Managers don't get a lot of appreciation, and we know that going into the job. Our satisfaction often comes from a well-executed coverage plan, an innovative content idea, or a challenging goal for our news product -- but mostly, it comes from helping other journalists grow and succeed. I have watched as the newsroom managers -- in the middle of constant crisis -- pushed our team to do the best work of their careers, providing all of the necessary support along the way.

MORE: CBS4 Behind The Scenes

This year has required the team at CBS4 to spend so many days and nights away from loved ones --at a time when their loved ones needed them the most. I know the sacrifices they make for this job, and I am grateful to all of them. So, if you're searching for something to be thankful for this year -- be thankful for our health care workers, emergency responders, teachers, delivery drivers, and other essential workers. And, I hope you will also be thankful for journalists. Happy Thanksgiving.

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