September 23, 2007

How Not to be "That" Reporter

"It can be difficult to interview grieving individuals or those who have been victimized. Reporters often open fresh wounds by simply being present. It can be nerve-racking and traumatizing for both involved parties" ('What Do You Ask?')

To me, crime stories seem like one of the harder topics in journalism in which to write about. I'm not sure why they always give these stories to the younger reporters, since I think it would be hard to write about a serious crime, unless it is just to "break them in". I'd make the worst crime reporter ever.

However, the chapter Covering Crime and Its Victims did provide a lovely little overview of how to appropriately cover crime stories. While it only glossed over the topics, it did address several issues that can arise when reporting on a crime. Most interesting was the information on talking to the victims (or family members of) themselves. As we've talked about in class, sometimes journalists can seem so cold or overly obvious when interviewing a victim of a serious crime. It either seems like they are being unsensitive to the event or feel the need to bring up the bad feelings over and over to make a good story. However, the chapter does not tell a reporter "go be really annoying" but instead stresses sensitivity for this difficult time. As the quote above states, it is hard for both reporter and victim to be interviewed after a crime- but as hard as it may be, it should be done well, accurately, and with as little conflict as possible.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at September 23, 2007 10:05 AM | TrackBack

yea,after reading chapter 5 I don't think I'd be the best person to report a crime, especially the part about talking to grieving victims and family members. Thats sounds like one of the hardest things a reported might have to do. However, I was relieved to see advice on the types of questions to ask, and how to phrase them. Ultimately when i think about it talking about what happened might actually help the people involved- so it's not a totally heinous thing to do

Posted by: Jara White at September 23, 2007 2:24 PM

I do agree that being personable and friendly would really help the victim or the family. Also being patient, I mean I feel that the family and or victim will be soooo sick of telling everyone what has happened, that their attitude towards "just another reporter" is not going to be very positive. I agree that this is sincerely important to a crime investigation interview of the victim.

Posted by: Bethany Merryman at September 23, 2007 4:17 PM

I also wondered why rookie reporters would be given crime stories...I can only imagine how intimidated I would feel when just starting a job as a reporter let alone being asked to cover such sensitive material. It just makes it seem worse.

But, if crime reporting is so difficult, I suppose it would make a good test for a new reporter. Maybe the mentality is if they can survive the crime beat, they can survive anything.

Posted by: Jackie Johns at September 23, 2007 7:15 PM

I totally agree that they shouldn't give crime stories to rookie reporters. I know that, for me, interviews are very nerve racking. It's a fear you have to get over I guess, like public speaking is for a lot of people. I'm a very emotional person (my dramitc background I guess) and I honestly don't know how I would react to a person whose son is lying on the side of the road dead. I get upset when my fish die.

Posted by: Daniella Choynowski at September 23, 2007 10:59 PM

I guess giving the assignments to a rookie reporter is just a way of breaking them into the business- if you can handle that, you can handle anything. But I think a seasoned reporter would do a better job at covering the event- know what to ask, how to ask it, etc.

Posted by: Nessa at October 14, 2007 2:06 PM

When a crime or accident happens on a Friday night or the wee hours of Sunday morning, often it's the rookie reporters who are covering those undesirable shifts, so they have to be able to cover the story on their own, without waking the senior editors up and asking them for advice. Jackie and Nessa are right -- if you can handle these stories and still produce good copy, you're ready for just about anything. Jara and Dani, there are other avenues to a professional career in journalism (or a related field) that don't include doing time on the city desk or the crime beat... it's just that, traditionally, that's where the rookie reporters proved their worth.

Bethany has the right attitude -- relatives and victims will be emotionally fragile, and most won't have any experience talking to journalists. But since they'll be sick and tired of talking to reporters after they've been doing so for several hours, that's precisely why ace reporters try to get there first!

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at October 15, 2007 1:01 AM
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