Harsh Realities of Crime Reporting

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Although I thought the majority of this chapter on covering crime was informative and useful, I thought some of the advice featured in the "At the Scene" section was a little devoid of basic, human decency and consideration for others.  Although the author advises to, "Try to avoid the wolfpack mentality that many of us have adopted. We'll get our information, quotes and sound bites if we exhibit a little patience." Only a few paragraphs later she says that "wolfpack journalism is a reality on major stories, so you should try to get as much as possible out of that kind of interview."

These and other tidbits of advice offered in this section made me question how far journalists are really encouraged to push the envelope in terms of interviewing the grieving and reporting the details of the latest breaking crime story.  Furthermore, what toll does a regular assignment to the crime beat take on new reporters, since they are the ones most often assigned to this demanding aspect of journalism.  Is the adoption of the "wolfpack" mentality unavoidable, as the author alludes to?  And if so, is it a reasonable sacrifice to make? 

What kind of person does the profession turn you into when a reporter must be reminded that the victims of crimes will likely be visibly upset and that "though we have deadlines, victims or their families have quite a bit to do, too"?

 

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6 Comments

Journalism is a competitive business, and too often the pressure of deadlines and the pressure to get a better story than the other guy can bring out the worst in people.

Having said that, police officers, emergency medical technicians, soldiers, and lots of other people who deal with traumatized people every day have to be able to separate themselves from the tragedy they encounter on a daily basis in order to do their jobs.

Since the book is aimed at students, rather than working reporters, I think we should take this as a warning to students that this part of the job can be dehumanizing if you aren't careful.

Jara White said:

I found myself questioning whether or not I could handle crime reporting. I don't know if I have the capacity to jump on someone after they've lost a loved one or have just been victimized. I think the best we can do is be sympathetic and get the truth out there as quickly as possible so that perhaps these people can move on with their lives

Bethany Merryman said:

Jara, I felt the same way. I totally can't imagining pushing the victims for their story. But then again I think about how others will learn from their stories. Sadly, we all learn through experience and seeing others suffer will make us cautious of harmful situations or people.

Nessa said:

I don't want to be a wolf! I can just imagine being the victim of a crime and having reporters swarm all around you trying to get the lastest information. It's a terrible image- and one I'm not sure I'd like to encompass. I also noticed the discrepency (sp) on the wolf mentality- so should reporters join the pack or not?

Madelyn Gillespie said:

It seems to me that the text was sending a dual message; you have a job as a reporter to tell a sordid tale for the public's knowledge yet you still have to be human about getting your information. It's a gray area that everyone has in them. How far do you push somethng until you give up and let it go? Hopefully, none of us wish to be wolves but we also can't cut ourselves off from the information that we need to stay safe from the wolves that do exist. Without the press, in any form, we would be left to only wonder what might happen to us in the dark of night.

I find myself questioning my capacity to handle all the emotions involved in crime reporting. while I understand that that would be my job and by reporting the crime I might be able to help prevent similar ones, the human side might overwhelme me. Being a passionate person, I tend to let my emotions take over and run my life. Then again, my being so emotionally connected to people may make me a better crime reporter. I guess there are always going to be aspects of your job, whatever it may be, that are difficult to handle. I think it takes a special kind of person to be a reporter.

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