Got a call on my work cell this evening from the mother of a woman I wrote an article about in today’s paper. This woman’s daughter was stabbed 24 times just before midnight earlier this week by an intruder she said entered her home despite her request for him to leave. This intruder also whacked her 10-year-old son with, again – what she said was, a metal pipe.
The mother was angry at me. She was mad at the paper, mad at the sheriff’s office, mad at the world. My story contained her daughter’s name, address and the hospital she was staying at – bad news to a person under the impression the police were going to try to keep it top secret.
She was “under high security” at the hospital, she told me, and added she was worried the intruder would find her daughter there.
I gave her the standard response – though I made sure to voice my condolences. “I am a reporter, ma’am. I get the news and relay it to the public. I will always try to get a complete story, too, while being tactful about what the public needs to know and doesn’t.”
She’s got (someone) on the part about where her daughter is being hospitalized. The public needs to know the incident happened, how horrific it was and exactly where it took place so residents living nearby are un the lookout for evil-doers knocking at their door shortly before midnight. Her name needed to be in there because there was no reason for it not to be.
However, I shift the blame for the info on where her daughter was being treated to the sheriff’s office. I always tell lawmen when I’m trying to get a story that I’m going to ask the questions, and if they don’t want t answer them for some reason or another, I’ll move on to the next one. Trouble is, the man I got the story from answered my question about where she was being hospitalized – how could I have known she was “under high security?”
Not that this has a whole lot to do with this, but I’m also compelled to share the woman’s threat of legal action and contacting one of the TV news stations about disclosing such sensitive information … to which I was sure to remind her would do nothing but draw more attention to her daughter’s whereabouts. I think she got this hint then.
(Don’t worry about the legal action threat – there’s no case here unless, by chance, the intruder does manage to track her down at the hospital, breech security there and do something bad. Even that would be a lawsuit at best – one that would be real tough to win.)
Anyway, you’d best believe this is going to cause some drama in my work relationship with the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office. Ironically, I pulled teeth to get this story and actually commented to my contact at the sheriff’s office how long it took for us to hear about it.
He me it wasn’t his job to alert the media when something happens. I told him every other law enforcement agency I deal with doesn’t have a problem with it and what we’ll start doing if they don’t want to let us know about these things is rehash what we hear on the scanner.
Which is bad for lawmen because then residents speculate, worry and call their offices non-stop to find details.
I can already tell you the sheriff’s office is now going to adopt a “don’t talk to the media” kind of policy. That’s a bad thing because, believe it or not, guys like me are in the media to help the public. Remember what I said back there about people calling the police for details of an incident if they hear it happened? They’ll do that because they want to know those details – and have a right to hear them.
Yes, these frantic, oftentimes unnecessary phone calls will all be thanks to us running scanner reports in the newspaper, but they’ll happen nonetheless because, as I said, people need to know what’s happening in the world around them.
Take last Saturday night for instance. A few miles from my home – and where my 3-year-old daughter sleeps – at about 10 p.m., I saw upwards around a dozen police cars in a fast food restaurant parking lot rummaging through a dumpster and looking through a car.
Did I want to know what happened apparently so close to my home? You betcha. Was it a murder? An armed robbery? A child abduction? A little ditty in the newspaper the next day just saying “according to a scanner report, police responded to an armed robbery at (insert location) at approximately 10 p.m. Saturday.”
Boom. My mind is at ease knowing it wasn’t a crazed child molester. Sure, some old fuddy duds my call the sheriff’s office to see if they caught the guy, etc., but for the most part, residents just want to know if they need to be worried about something.
So, to provide closure on the woman calling me tonight, I’ll just say I don’t know what will come of her. She was mad because “her business” got put out there. It never seemed to cross her mind that it was for the benefit of others that I did what I did. God bless her.