The first few weeks of my internship at the Herald-Leader, I dreaded working the cops shift. I was sure endless hours of listening to a police scanner and reporting on car wrecks would drain me. I ended up covering a major homicide investigation and the police’s internal investigation about their failure to follow procedure at that crime scene.
I came into the job with little experience covering crimes of this magnitude. Obituaries were one of my favorite things to write at my college paper. That may sound morbid, but it was simply because I enjoyed writing about people as more than victims. I let people know that the deceased were more than just statistics and an old photograph. It wasn’t hard-hitting investigative journalism, but it was what gave me a sense of purpose.
The murder investigation led me to bother many neighbors and friends in their time of suffering. But one day, a woman called me to say thank you, something journalists rarely hear in any situation. She wanted to thank the Herald-Leader reporters covering the homicide for not just barging into their lives searching out a story. She said we took the time to introduce ourselves, to express our condolences, to ease into a relationship with that neighborhood and let them know we weren’t vultures preying on their misery. That is something, she said, other journalists seemed to lack.
In the midst of all the open records requests, sifting through court documents and relentless phone calls, that one call reminded me of why I was a journalist. I wanted to tell stories, and the only way to tell a story is through your sources. A police report can give you facts, but the grieving friend gives you the heart.
I can think of no better way to make the leap into the world of professional journalism than with a summer at the Herald-Leader under my belt. From the first day I arrived it was clear- this position did not come with training wheels. You were treated as any other reporter, given the opportunity for the same stories (if you pushed for them.)
From here I am unsure about my future plans. I will stay in Lexington and raise my family, but hope to return to writing as soon as I can. Because after this internship, you can hand me a police scanner, business story, community piece or a court document, and I’ll gladly take them all on with confidence.