The most significant stories we write in journalism and fiction are about life and death: the war in Afghanistan, the killing of Osama bin Laden, the anniversary of 9/11, the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.

You don't have to be a foreign correspondent to be a life and death journalist. If you work for a small news organization, you will on a daily basis be writing about public safety, drug abuse, mental health, cancer rates, gang violence and many other issues. You will be required to interview people who are hurting or mourning. You will be forced, in the words of Francis X. Clines, "to tell the morbid truth."

No reporter I know has been better than Jim Sheeler at reporting and writing these life and death stories with courage, dignity and grace. Even, on occasion, with good humor. Sheeler -- who won the Pulitzer Prize for his "Final Salute" series -- joined me for a chat about writing stories of life and death. You can replay the chat below ...