Early lesson as a reporter

Posted: March 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

Sorry the blog hasn’t been very active lately. I recently started a new job, which entailed a move from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, and I’ve been pretty busy. For the first time in more than 20 years, I’m not working as a newspaper reporter or copy editor. I’m surprised at what a big adjustment it’s proving to be, working a normal nine-to-five job in an office that isn’t a newsroom.

So what did I learn as a journalist? Man! I could write volumes on that subject. Instead, I’ll share with you an embarrassing anecdote about a useful early lesson I picked up.

I was a cub reporter, about 23, and covering my first murder. I was talking on the phone to the police detective investigating the crime. He’d given me the basics. The location of the body. The likely cause of death, pending an autopsy. The time range when the killing occurred.

After taking down those details, I thought to myself: “OK, let’s take this interview to the next level.”

I asked: “When you’re trying to track down a killer like this, is there a certain mindset you have to get into?”

I expected him to say something along the lines of: “You put yourself in the mind of the killer. It’s a chess game, see? But you gotta be careful. Because if you look too long into that darkness … well … a man can lose himself out there.”

I’d seen enough movies to believe that police actually said things like that. What I got instead was a long, irritated sigh and a response of: “Sir, I have NO idea how to answer that question.”

Real life, it seemed, didn’t look a hell of a lot like the movies. And I’d go on to spend the next 20-plus years seeing that principle play out again and again.

It’s been quite a ride. I think I’ll miss it.

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