The Illawarra Mercury reporting team is bringing you a weekly series of behind-the-scenes stories, exclusive to our subscribers. Today, editor Julian O'Brien explains how a special piece written by Professor Justin Yerbury came to be read around the nation.
The computer pinged as a message landed in this editor's Twitter messages inbox.
A quick glance saw it was from Justin Yerbury AM, the renowned Illawarra MND researcher.
"I wrote this for The Conversation but they didn't want it in the end. Is it of any use to you at the Mercury?," the message read.
Now Justin and I have a shared passion and love for the Illawarra's NBL club and have connected through social media previously, but Justin is a far more qualified Hawks zealot given he is also a former player with the club.
And if you know Justin you know he now lives with MND and can only communicate through technology he moves with his eyes so social media is one of the ways he communicates with people.
Justin then sent me the link to the article he'd written .... all with his eyes.
Upon opening the article and reading it as a first pass, the best I could offer in response to Justin via a Twitter message was: "Love the ending! Leave it with me".
Honestly, I didn't know what to say. I read it again. Then I read it again.
Given the nature of the article which was quite involved and indepth, I sought counsel from a couple of wise colleagues to get their thoughts. I wasn't concerned that people might be upset, or challenged - they're all good things. I guess I just wanted reassurance the message wouldn't be lost in the depth and the technical nature of the piece. But they both loved it as much as I did.
So last weekend we shared the piece and not only did we share it with Mercury readers, but it got picked up nationally through our wide Australian Community Media network.
Ultimately the piece is about Justin's thoughts about humans, animals, medical research and the possible transmission of brain disease. Yet, for me, two things stood out.
It is damn scary what we, as humans, don't know yet.
And overwhelmingly the most powerful message was this parting one in Justin's piece _
"While humans continue to use animals for consumption and experimentation, there will be a continued risk of animal to human disease transmission," he wrote.
"It is vital that we have a healthy dose of humility and fear of the biological organisms of Earth and it is clear that occasionally we as a species need to be reminded that as a species we are not at the centre of the web of life but are just one of the plethora of species that share this planet."
These are words we should never forget.
If you haven't read Justin's piece in full please do HERE. Thank you as always for your support. If you enjoyed this, feel free to forward it to a friend.