Grief from the Eyes of a Reporter - A Conversation with Greg Hardesty

July 26, 2016

Host Kristi Hugstad talks to reporter Greg Hardesty and learns just how much finesse and emotional intelligence are required to get to the heart of the most tragic stories.

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1:38 – Meet Greg Hardesty, who's covered some of Orange County's most heartbreaking stories in his three decades of journalism (including 17 years as a reporter at the Orange County Register and six years of copyediting and writing in Japan). Greg is now a writer and editor at Cornerstone Communication's Behind the Badge OC — an online news site that covers law enforcement.

6:16 – Greg discusses his hobby of "ultra marathoning," which is running any distance that exceeds a typical 26.2 mile marathon. He was also an adjunct faculty member of California State University Fullerton and California State University Long Beach, where he taught feature writing.

10:13 – Kristi recounts the first time she met Greg when he covered the story about the suicide of her husband Bill. They discuss his ability to start conversations with people who have suffered horrific losses: by being a human first, and a reporter second. He explains why he wrote Kristi's husband's story.

13:37 – Greg talks about the impact of losing two friends in his early twenties, how it influenced his writing career (he originally focused on business stories with an emphasis on the surfing industry), and how he experienced grief.

16:50 – Kristi and Greg examine how they deal with grief. Greg explains the intention behind his writing, and how he writes to honor the lives of those who have died and to comfort their families — never to sensationalize their stories to entertain the public.

20:25 – Greg discusses the most difficult and memorable stories he's written — including one about a dying teenager who planned her own funeral, and another about the murder of Samantha Runion.

31:30 – Sound Engineer Paul Roberts asks Greg how he approaches victims to obtain the information needed to write their stories.

33:30 – Greg talks about TIP (Trauma Intervention Program), which he joined last year as a volunteer. TIP is a non-profit used by police, fire, and hospitals to provide "emotional first aid" in the hours right after a tragedy. There are approximately100 volunteers in Orange County who sign up for three 12-hour shifts per month (approximately 500 hours annually).

36:23 – Greg describes one of the most poignant calls he has ever received, which was a "NODA" call ("No One Dies Alone") for a 7-year-old who lay dying alone. TIP staffed volunteers 24/7 to be by her bedside for six days. "We sent her off with love — we pampered her and told her how much we loved her," Greg says.

37:45 – Greg explains what TIP training entails. (The next training is in September. Click here for more details.)

39:32 – Greg shares the story of the time he was flown to New York twice to appear on the talk show circuit, but for very different reasons: the first was for his story about Jaycee Dugard, and the second was about a piece he wrote regarding his then-teenaged daughter's excessive texting (14,528 texts in one month!).

42:00 – Greg shares what grief has taught him: to slow down and live in the moment. He ties his response to running a marathon: "You cannot finish a fifty mile race if you're at mile 22 thinking about, 'Oh, I have 28 more to go!'"

43:40 – Greg and Kristi share their thoughts on the concept of "closure."

Questions for Greg Hardesty? Contact him at ghardesty[at]cornerstonecomms.com and read his articles at BehindTheBadgeOC.com.

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