I’ve always noticed a distinct trend in the newspaper business. Call it alarming, call it trashy, call it what you will, but people love reading crime stories. The juicier, the better.
As a reporter – one who’s only beginning to scratch the surface with the crime beat – this is a good tidbit of info to know. Basically, any story I write about a crime – past, present or future (this is possible, if you think about it – and, no, I do not claim to be a psychic) – will be well-read.
It’s a major perk of the crime beat. Think about it: when health, education and government reporters write “filler” stories they know aren’t about anything particularly interesting, barely anyone reads them … hardly the case with crime.
So last week I decided to take advantage of that. I spoke to a police officer down at the station about doing little ditties on their most wanted guys – the ones who for a decent length of time have been running from the law.
Today, I did my first one. Too often, I read 12-inch stories that are mere rehashes of police briefs along with a quote or two from a cop. Then nothing. Did they ever catch the guy who did it? What will come of him? Should anyone be worried he or she is still on the loose?
While it’d be a little much to do a follow-up on every crime story we do (sometimes people do dumb shit and no one cares what becomes of them), it would be a good idea to keep the public posted on how the search is going for shooters, robbers, rapists and jaywalkers.
Plus, it requires very little effort on my part – busting out a 16-or-so-inch story is pretty easy, since all you need is a description of the crime, what lawmen said and the alleged perpetrator’s criminal history. The lede is the most difficult part and it’s not even that bad: summarize what happened by highlighting the juiciest parts of the story.
Anyway, that’s a good way to fill my downtime. I may start more lengthy “cold case” stories (yes, this is an idea used by many other papers), but let’s not get the cart before the horse here: I haven’t even begun to cover court cases regularly, plus – although I make it out to sound like I do – I really don’t know what the Hell I’m doing yet.
Anyway, I heard on the scanner earlier tonight there was an armed robbery in town and saw a bunch of cops savaging through a dumpster and literally ripping apart a Dodge Neon an hour later when I went out to pick up a few groceries. I’ll call in the morning and see what happened – I sincerely hope someone got hurt (which is wrong, but I stand behind my statement).