Friday, October 23, 2009

REPORTER BLOG: Cops and...Journalists?

By Craig Reck

Slow News Day...Not!
This past Wednesday, my colleague Brian Boesch and I were assigned to report for Thursday's newscast. The only problem was that there was no hard news to report. Those events that might be newsworthy certainly were not capable of being a lead story. This all changed with one simple call to the Athens County Sheriff's Department.

Operation Busted Balloon
The Athens County Sheriff's Department was going live with a multi-agency operation that was several months in the making. They invited Athens MidDay to cover the story as it happened. This was HUGE! Most crime-related stories are reported after they happen. We were going to see the action as it broke and, more importantly, we were going to record it on video.

Cops Make Me Nervous
Before I start gushing wth all the exciting details and reflections on what the experience taught me, I have to admit that cops make me nervous. It's not a fear of handguns, police dogs or aviator sunglasses, but more of a deep respect for authority to the point of intimidation. These people are trusted with the security of the community and I'm just some guy who enjoys learning about new stories. We're at two different ends of the spectrum.

Turns out, I was wrong. After a day driving around with Lt. Cooper of the Sheriff's Department, I realized that police officers and journalists are quite similar. Now I don't know many journalists with handguns strapped to their belts, but the methods behind both professions are very much alike.

Lt. Cooper said that he enjoys how his job description changes every day. One day he might answer a missing person call in The Plains and the next day he's busting heroin dealers in Millfield. The same desire for variety attracted me to journalism. Rather than sit in a cubicle, I could be interviewing the mayor about budget cuts.

It's human interaction that keeps Lt. Cooper and me returning to our jobs. Even on a bad day, one good conversation can make everything alright. We're all social beings by nature, so why not be paid to interact with our fellow humans?

Lt. Cooper mentioned his salary. The amount doesn't matter, but his attitude about it does, because money is not the reason he wears the badge. The same goes for me and journalism. If I were interested in making enough money to buy a fancy car and a mansion, I would have studied business or engineering. Both Lt. Cooper and I work for the satisfaction of providing a service to the community.

Sights and Sounds of Operation Busted Balloon

When we set out for a day of special response teams busting heroin dealers, I did not expect to be so caught up in the similarities of police work and reporting. My anxiety around authority figures did not improve, but the communication between the Athens County Sheriff's Department and Athens MidDay sure did.

Spending the day in a car with someone allows for plenty of time to form an honest opinion about him. At the end of the day, the Sheriff's Department had a better idea of the people who report on their efforts, and we had a better understanding of local law enforcement. I'm not saying that the two organizations are now in cahoots, but an open dialogue between the two will lead to more accurate reporting for viewers. It's a win-win!

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