Bravery, Perseverance, and Journalistic Ethics
Having linked to Sean, I'll link to an article Sean wrote with me. Getting this story presented me with an ethical dilemna.
Last September, Baseline editor Tom Steinert-Threlkeld asked me if I was up to writing about Cantor Fitzgerald for a disaster-recovery package he was planning. Tom knew that I lost two close friends at Cantor, the hardest-hit of all the WTC companies on 9/11, and he didn't push me. But he felt that I could approach the story with some sensitivity for that reason.
I said I would try, and Sean was assigned to handle the tech reporting (at Baseline we work in teams). The hard part was getting in the door at Cantor and its eSpeed unit, which were operating out of temporary quarters, having lost over 650 people at their North Tower HQ. The firms were in chaos, and I wasn't getting very far as our deadline approached. Tom urged me to make personal contact with Howard Lutnick, the chairman of Cantor.
I went to Haverford with Howard, which is where we met our dead friends, Doug Gardner and Calvin Gooding. I knew him when he was just Howie, not a billionaire or the poster boy for a global disaster, and saw him occasionally at parties and weddings; most recently we had embraced after he spoke at Doug's funeral.
Sure I could call him--but could I call him at the worst imaginable moment for this reason, for work, for a project that was important to me personally and (to some degree) professionally?
I kept stalling, working Cantor PR for permission to visit the eSpeed emergency site New Jersey, until it was October and we were almost out of time. Tom knew I was going to see Howard on October 11 at Calvin's funeral in Brooklyn. He wanted me to ask him there. I said I would try. I wondered if I would.
Calvin's wife, Lachanze, pregnant out to here with their second child, spoke at the funeral to a crowd of more than 1,100 people. Then Howard spoke, and so did I. Afterwards he and I were alone in the church for a moment. We hugged each other, said "good job," exhaled. That was that.
Later I had a chance to ask for his help. Shortly after that, Sean and I were in the NJ facility. On the way from the airport, Sean told me that he had been an officer on the USS Iowa just before the deadly turret explosion on that ship. He made me feel better about the story we were going to tell.
It was an emotional story, and about as exciting a narrative as you could hope for in an IT magazine. I felt like we did it for good reasons.