Observing a Journalist

May 012007
Authors: Sean Reed

When any form of breaking news goes down, no matter how dangerous the assignment, journalists go in head first like flies to a piece of rotten meat.

I got to see this first hand on Monday when I followed these crazy writers to a crime scene just across the street from the Sundance on Mulberry.

While sitting in the newsroom, a mysterious caller – well, mysterious to me – gave us a hot tip that there was a homicide in the area. Immediately, the two news reporters in the room jumped up, grabbed notepads, and after finding a photographer, proceeded to the parking lot.

I just went along for the ride, but it was lucky for them that I did. I was the only person who had a vehicle that could fit the four of us that wasn’t blocks away.

When we finally rolled up to the scene, it was almost comical to see all of the news people roving around. Everybody was there – Fox, CBS4, 9News. Well, okay, not everybody – we did manage to beat both Channel 2 and the Coloradoan to the scene.

As we walked out of the car, everybody looked at us like we didn’t belong. Of course, this was nothing to the looks they were giving each other. It was as if, at any moment, a Will Ferrell-esque Anchorman brawl was going to break out between the news teams. Much to my dismay, however, this never happened.

Things only became more humorous when Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden began fielding questions from the press. It was like watching fans at a rock concert. Everybody swarmed their way as close as they could get to the man, only showing enough manners not to block each other’s cameras.

It was during this question-and-answer session that I really was able to notice the difference between the journalists the others respected and the ones who were – for lack of a better phrase – below standard.

The good ones came right off the bat asking for the important details and suffered no interruptions. When one of the lesser journalists tried to chime in, like the reporter for the Coloradoan, trying to get answers to questions already asked, the bigger fish would just start up again like they weren’t even there.

When the sheriff finished his press debriefing, the media representatives started harassing anybody else at the scene who didn’t have a notepad. I just followed the Collegian reporters and snickered when the onlookers who were talking to us shied away from the professionals.

After making an unsuccessful trip around the neighborhood behind the business park being blocked by the police and saw the SWAT team combing the area, it dawned on me how ridiculous the whole situation was.

I had gone willingly to an unsecured crime scene at which a man had been murdered. For all I knew, the killer was still in the area, and yet, there I was in the face of danger with no idea what I was doing there.

Looking around me, however, I realized that no one else there echoed my sentiments. These were professionals – their drive to get the story preceded any fear of bodily harm.

Watching these men and women scurry around the crime scene like ants made me realize what an important profession journalism really is.

Just blocks away, there were people who would have had no idea a murderer could be on the loose if it weren’t for these journalists on the scene. However, because of them, these people were able to take the proper precautions to keep their families safe.

For this reason, journalists, although prying and obnoxious at times, serve an important purpose in our society.

These men and women live – and die – to gather information so people like me don’t have to. I can think of no nobler cause.

Sean Reed is a junior political science major. His column appears every Wednesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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