When I started reporting in Phoenix, one of the first investigative stories to get my journalistic juices flowing was about internal government documents which somehow got into our hands. The documents detailed reports on border crossers who raised suspicions about terrorists potentially entering the country from Mexico. The story sent me on my first trip to the border. Photographer Joe Peters traveled with me and when he finished editing the story, he found a way to turn a stack of papers into a visually compelling sweeps special report.
Joe and I also worked on an unusual story about a homeowner who argued construction workers spent so much time peeing in the house while building it, the stench was pretty much as permanent as the foundation. In an effort to begin a story with a few drops of humor, I sent Joe into the station bathroom to shoot video of him flushing urinals.
Joe never let me forget my editorial decision on that one.
Joe and I also worked one of the stories most memorable to me: a police officer who was shot seven times, survived and recorded the whole incident on a personal tape recorder.
Joe moved away many years ago. I won’t pretend we’re best friends or that we’re close. But we stayed in regular contact how many men keep in touch: through sports. I bashed his Bears. He mocked my Dolphins.
Anyone genuinely familiar with the media knows too many in TV news, both behind and in front of the camera, are jaded and not so fun to work with. They bitch and moan, sometimes rightfully, about decisions, equipment and anything else they see in their path. Joe was no push over, but he most often brushed off that B.S. with a smile. TV reporters often have a select few photographers they hope to work with when they walk through the door. How could Joe Peters not be on my list? He is talented and more importantly, he is a good guy in an industry that could use a whole lot more.
Some managers follow the argument that they can replace everyone and their TV train will keep rolling full steam ahead without slowing down and barreling off the tracks. That’s not true. I’ve watched several co-workers leave over the years and management never replaced their positive personalities. Joe falls in that category.
I was stunned to hear Joe recently suffered a severe stroke. He’s relatively young. He’s married with children. He’s the one not too long ago who was making fun of my Heat and Marlins. You hear what happened and can’t believe all the stupid things the rest of us worry about, lose sleep over and consider a big deal. You hear what happened and you’re reminded life is fragile.
I sent Joe a text knowing he may never read it. His wife wrote back, saying “Joe moved to a rehab facility today and he moved his toe!!!”
If you’re in public relations, you may have once met Joe Peters. And if you’re a reporter or producer, trust me. He is one of the co-workers you would have appreciated working with, especially if you’re surrounded by jerks who make the simple assignments difficult. Joe usually shot the story with a smile and made it look damn good.
Joe is a good guy who needs your prayers.
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