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When I was a kid in grade school, my dad came to speak to my class about his job as a television news producer.

He began by drawing a big circle in the center of the blackboard.

"This," he said, "is a big news event. It's a massive earthquake, it's a flood, it's a fire, it's a volcano erupting."

"Now," he said, as he began drawing lots of big arrows shooting away from the circle, "this is what most normal people do. They run away from that thing. They move to safety.

"But this," he said, as he started to draw little arrows going toward the circle, "is what journalists do. They go there to learn about what's going on, so they can tell the world about it. That way, everybody doesn't have to stick around and find out for themselves."

That stuck with me my whole life, and I'm sure played a part in my decision to pursue journalism. It seemed a noble profession to me, something that should be respected, like being a firefighter or a police officer. It was brave for journalists to run into danger so that others might be spared.

But now, for the first time in my career, the picture on the blackboard has changed. The decision to run into the circle has been taken from me. Now, everyone — my friends, my family, my community — are all little arrows hurtling into the circle with me.

The coronavirus is all around us and among us, and our best path forward will be based on timely, factual information. The stakes are higher than ever. And that means we must do our jobs with more integrity, more determination and more accuracy than ever before.

— Colin M. Stewart, assistant news editor, cstewart@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6366.

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