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Day by Day:
The Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter|
And that ebullience wasn’t limited to the “good” stories. When government officials stonewalled us on public records or open meetings, Liz revved up to find out what was happening. She would call every official, attend every meeting, and knock on any door necessary to let readers know what was going on. The “hunt” energized her just as much as those conversations with her feature subjects.
Liz wrote a lot of columns about her hearing loss and how it affected her life, but to be honest, it wasn’t something I thought about much when I hired her. Why should I have? I talked to her. She talked to me. It didn’t seem any different from the communication I had with anyone else.
But the truth is I did get occasional complaints from people that Liz’s hearing was a problem. Some of these people were sources. Some were co-workers. Usually, I talked to Liz about them and she would tackle them directly. She would either talk to the concerned party to iron things out, or put herself in a better situation—either through improved technology or physical positioning—to minimize future concerns.
Many of these concerns were not about the communication; they were about the other person’s perception of Liz. Because Liz was so open about her hearing loss, they expected the worst. It didn’t matter that Liz did excellent work; that fact was obscured for them by what they viewed as an insurmountable handicap.
I saw the same reaction several times with reporters who spoke with an accent. So you learn to consider the source of the complaint, especially when they say, “I’m not prejudiced, but . . .”
That brings us to Liz’s super powers. Because of her hearing loss, she said, she had cultivated other senses to “listen.” While she could sign and read lips, she was also a master at reading body language. Many was the local politician who told Liz of the unspoken just by the way they handled themselves and her understanding of that.
Liz’s energy and enthusiasm not only made her a good reporter, it also made her a great student. She came into the job with an open mind and a huge thirst to learn more. That she did, and she’s still at it.
Martin L. Rozenman