In the aftermath of tragedy, there’s a thing some people do that drives me crazy. Hmm … how to explain? Something bad happens—an explosion, a shooting, a suicide—and folks with marginal connections feel the need to get inappropriately close. They want to be involved, and therefore overstate a friendship or bond that—if it exists—does no only in a slight fashion.
You probably know whereof I speak. It has nothing to do with bad intentions. Often, the intentions are actually quite good. It’s just … well, a weird human thing.
With that as my lead in, I want to make this clear: I was not one of Gail Kerr’s best friends.
We worked together for 2 1/2 years at The Tennessean. She was warm and cool and helpful to a young punk unwilling to take advice. We stayed in touch, loosely, via Facebook, but once I left Nashville in 1996, our communication pretty much ceased.
That being said, when I learned earlier today of Gail’s passing from cancer, my thoughts turned dark and my heart sunk. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about a shared newsroom experience that fosters an eternal bond. It’s probably the closest thing journalists have to being teammates on an athletic squad. There’s a common goal; a common experience. Your bylines often appear side by side, and when the work ends you find yourself sitting at the same bar, decompressing in similar ways.
Here’s what I can tell you about Gail Kerr: She was insanely dogged, insanely hard working and insanely dedicated to the profession. I would watch her from afar and realize (without admitting such) that she was 8,000 miles above my league. A pro’s pro. In her honor, I urge you to read this post, from our friend and former colleague, the excellent Catherine Mayhew.