This is Dominick Tao. He is a 22-year-old senior at the University of Florida, graduating in December with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science. Here he sits at his desk just after midnight on July 24 sifting through piles of documents for an investigative story he was writing for the Times.
The United States Marine Corps shirt, Tao said he wears it because it fits well, looks tough and is quite comfortable. His brother Gabe, 20, gave him the T-shirt after coming home from boot camp in Paris Island. Gabe is heading off to Iraq in September.
He drinks a cup of jasmine green tea, or as he refers to it, "It's like my version of cigarettes." The cup he drinks it out of even has its own story, as it has traveled with him from his last internship at the Miami Herald and for the longest time was the only real kitchenware in his studio.
Tao is a journalist, through and through. And a damn good one at that. Here are his thoughts verbatim:
Just because I'm Clark Kent doesn't mean I'm not Superman.
Or at least it doesn't mean I can't try.
There are too many wolves and egotists out there who simply don't care. They'll steal, and relish in that they've grown richer as their victim grew commensurately poorer. They'll ruin a life through violence or subversion, simply for the satisfaction of winning. And they'll leave a mess, a trail of destruction in their wake, and leave it to the peasants to clean up.
And it takes much talent and guile to do all these things, to scam and steal and get away with it.
It takes just as much to bring them down.
And this is my super strength and ability to fly and fight: long, dark hours working into the night. Crafting against the crafty, and backing up every word.
And perhaps in the morning when the sun hits the news, enough justice will be reflected to right the wrongs. To let empathy triumph over apathy and greed.
No, I'm no hero.
But that doesn't mean I can't aspire to be.
And this essay raises a question -- do too many journalists think they're self-righteous watchdogs, that they really are modern day champions crusading for truth? Perhaps. But like Batman said to the hero wannabe in The Dark Knight after being asked, what's the difference between me and you? Batman's answer: "I'm not wearing hockey pants." My answer: I'm not the 10 o'clock news. I put in the time, the sleepless nights, the self-questioning and the hours of research and interviews to be sure that yeah, I really am doing what's right by those who have been wronged.
- Dominick Tao