FOR Jackson Byrnes it started with a limp. For us, it started with a phone call.
Only just turned 18, Jackson had been diagnosed with a massive brain tumour set to kill him soon.
He had only one chance - an operation with one of Australia's most renowned surgeons, Charlie Teo. It had to be done soon and it was going to cost - a lot.
When a friend of Jackson's mum, Rhonda, phoned the Star's news director, Rebecca Lollback, the situation was desperate. Jackson was booked in for surgery and the family had only days to find the $80,000 to pay for it.
A sense of determination settled on the newsroom as we worked out how we could help. We needed to carry word of Jackson's plight as far as possible and hope the community's generosity could meet this impossible task.
The next day's front page carried Jackson as its splash. As the papers were thumping onto lawns around the Northern Rivers we began an intense online campaign.
The initial report told the story of Jackson's plight and was followed by Facebook posts and a Twitter blitz under the hashtag #savejackson.
That blitz was reinforced by the entire Northern Star organization, with many staff promoting the campaign on their private social media accounts and even chipping in their own donations.
The community responded strongly and the trickle of donations to Jackson's crowd funding page became a torrent. The total amount raised on the gofundme website was jumping by hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the time it took to hit the refresh button.
By Friday night, the gofundme campaign had jumped from a couple of thousand dollars to about $25,000 and Jackson's $80,000 target was starting to look doable.
The Star kept the story on the front page on Saturday and Monday. Northern Star staff, working in their own time, continued updating the story online and posting it to Facebook across the weekend. Finally, in the small hours of Monday morning, the fundraising total crossed the magic $80,000 mark.
Jackson had his urgently-needed surgery on Wednesday. The news it was not only successful, but that Jackson had come through it in far better shape than his doctors dared hope sent a frisson of delight through both the newsroom and the broader community.
This is why we become journalists.
Despite the comparatively poor pay, long hours, and frequent vitriol from those who believe us part of various leftist/rightist conspiracies; despite journalism sitting at the bottom of the least desirable jobs in a recent list published by Fairfax - we stay and treasure our careers because it helps people.
It's something we do in print and online every day by providing information, exposing wrongs, explaining issues, and celebrating achievements. Even so, it's rare we have the opportunity to help save a single, identifiable life.
Ultimately, credit for the success of the fundraising effort for Jackson lies with the community and the individual people and organizations that handed over hard cash so a young man might live. As a news organization, we get the honour of knowing many of those who were so keen to help only knew their aid was needed because of us.
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