Monday, December 1, 2014

Guest Post from Author David W. Berner: What Broadcast Journalism Taught Me About Parenting

I’ve been a broadcast journalist, either working full time or as a freelancer for decades and this means, many times, being live on the air. When I first started working in Chicago radio, I would occasionally start my early morning news shift from home. I’d first talk to the editor, do a little research if needed, and then begin the work of covering the story. Sometimes it would send me out the door immediately, depending on the nature of the coverage. But other times, I would need to report something on the air regarding the story before heading out to a location or to land an interview. This was in the early days of cellphones when the technology was in its infancy, so landlines were still the first choice for live reports on the radio.

One early morning, sometime around 6AM, I picked up my landline in my office in my home, telephoned the station, and waited on hold to do what broadcasters call their live-shot. I don’t even remember the story I was working on, but I do remember what interrupted my live report.

“Dad?” I heard a little voice say over the phone’s earpiece. “Dad, are you there?”

The question came from the tiny voice of my four-year old son, Graham. He had always been an earlier riser and on this morning he was right on schedule. What made him pick up the phone’s extension at the very moment I was delivering my report live on the radio? I’m not sure. But there he was.  

“Dad?” he questioned again. I attempted to ignore him and plow through the live report as if he were not there, hoping the copy I had written and the authoritative delivery I was giving my words would somehow drowned him out. None of this was working.

After another question or two to his father, Graham hung up the phone, a loud click radiating over the airwaves.

I completed my report, put down the receiver, and left my office to find Graham. He had made his way into the living room, still looking for his father, determined to find his dad. He wanted him right there, right then, right at that very moment.

“Graham, you know you don’t have to pick up the phone to talk to your dad, right?” I asked.

“But I couldn’t find you,” he said. “I needed you.”

There was nothing in particular he “needed”. Nothing urgent. No emergency. He just wanted his dad.

I recall this story now as I consider what my work as a broadcast journalist might have taught me about parenting. It’s simple really: be there, be there, be there.

In broadcasting, writing and reporting is only as good or relevant as the work you have done lately, sometimes with in the last few minutes. It’s that immediate. And this is how your children see their relationship with their parents. They want you with them immediately. They want you exactly when they want you. There is no time for patience. It’s exactly how broadcast journalism works. You have to meet that timely deadline. As a parent, you also have to meet another timely deadline. The element of time is the big issue for children. Be there. Be there. Be there.

Spending time, as much as possible, is addressed in my memoir Any Road Will Take You There. The story is about a 5000-mile road trip with my two sons that turns into an introspective examination of fatherhood. Time played an enormous part in the narrative. Not only the time we spent together on the long trip, but also the time my father had given me as a young man and how that still resonated for me, and the time I had given and hoped to give my children through the years. Sometimes as a father, as I wrote in the memoir, “you just have to show up.” It sounds simple, but it’s not always. “Showing up” doesn’t mean just physically being there, more importantly it means showing up emotionally. Time is crucial in all of its aspects.  

Many years after his early morning phone interruption, I reminded my teenaged Graham of that incident. Without hesitation he said, “I remember that. I don’t know what the big deal was. I just wanted my dad and I needed to find you anyway I could.”

Time. It’s important in broadcast journalism and it’s even more important for me in my role as a parent.

About David W. Berner:

David W. Berner--the award winning author of ACCIDENTAL LESSONS and ANY ROAD WILL TAKE YOU THERE--was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he began his work as a broadcast journalist and writer. He moved to Chicago to work as a radio reporter and news anchor for CBS Radio and later pursue a career as a writer and educator. His book ACCIDENTAL LESSONS is about his year teaching in one of the Chicago area's most troubled school districts. The book won the Golden Dragonfly Grand Prize for Literature and has been called a "beautiful, elegantly written book" by award-winning author Thomas E. Kennedy, and "a terrific memoir" by Rick Kogan (Chicago Tribune and WGN Radio). ANY ROAD WILL TAKE YOU THERE is the author's story of a 5000-mile road trip with his sons and the revelations of fatherhood. The memoir has been called "heartwarming and heartbreaking" and "a five-star wonderful read."

David can be found online at:


Twitter: @davidwberner

Twitter: @anyroadbook



About the Book: 

Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons is a heartwarming and heartbreaking
story told with humor and grace, revealing the generational struggles and triumphs of being a dad, and the beautiful but imperfect ties that connect all of us.

Recipient of a Book of the Year Award from the Chicago Writers Association, Any Road Will Take You There is honest, unflinching, and tender.

In the tradition of the Great American Memoir, a middle-age father takes the reader on a five-thousand-mile road trip -- the one he always wished he'd taken as a young man. Recently divorced and uncertain of the future, he rereads the iconic road story -- Jack Kerouac's On the Road -- and along with his two sons and his best friend, heads for the highway to rekindle his spirit.

However, a family secret turns the cross-country journey into an unexpected examination of his role as a father, and compels him to look to the past and the fathers who came before him to find contentment and clarity, and celebrate the struggles and triumphs of being a dad.

Paperback: 300 Pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Dream of Things (September 23, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0988439096
ISBN-13: 978-0988439092
Twitter hashtag: # AnyRoadBook

Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon

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