[NFB-NM] ‘I’ve had to learn to listen’ - Veteran journalist relies on his ears for reporting while vision deteriorates.

Tonia Trapp nfbnewmexicosecretary at gmail.com
Sat Nov 24 20:27:34 UTC 2018

(Thanks to Art Tannenbaum for passing along the following article)

‘I’ve had to learn to listen.’ Veteran journalist relies on his ears for reporting while vision deteriorates


November 23, 2018 at 1:13 PM EST - Updated November 23 at 6:19 PM

MILWAUKEE (WISN/CNN) - A Wisconsin journalist is not letting anything get in the way of him reporting the news.

Crocker Stephenson is not even letting his weakening vision affect him.

For 32 years, he wrote about what he saw for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"The primary thing that a reporter does is pay attention and tell the truth," he said.

But paying attention got a whole lot more complicated with an unexpected turn in his health.

“My vision just suddenly began to evaporate,” Stephenson said.

The man who had won national awards for his precise observations learned he was going blind.

“It's sort of like if you opened your eyes under water,” Stephenson said. “You know, you could see a person there. So if you're swimming with somebody, you could see someone there, but it's blurry."

While he still has some vision, Stephenson is committed to adapting so he can keep doing his job.

“So, I’m trying to learn how to use a cane and stuff like that while I still have enough vision to connect that all up in my brain,” Stephenson said.

The 62-year-old can no longer drive, so he ride-shares or takes a bus to work.

And he's learned to rely on a different sense when reporting.

His hearing.

"I've had to learn to listen and I've had to learn to pay attention in a way that being visual gave me a pass," Stephenson said.

He records his interviews on his phone.

“There is a certain arrogance about your vision. It dictates what you’re seeing,” he said. “Here, I have to say, ‘What are you wearing?’ ‘I heard your voice crack, are you crying?’ You know, ‘So why are you crying?’ And so the conversations become much more intimate.”

Then in the newsroom, on a modified keyboard, he transcribes conversations and builds his story from the nuances of what he hears - instead of relying on what he sees.

"I overlooked an awful lot, and I can't believe how much I was missing before when I could see," he said.

The vision loss started about two years ago and it's only getting worse.

But he said going through this has made him become more thankful.

Copyright 2018 WISN via CNN. All rights reserved.

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