Becoming A Crime Editor: An Education

“Press conference starts in five,” my coworker shouts over the din to the rest of my team. A police chief is about to take to a podium to talk about the boy who’s just shot five students, killing one of them and himself in the process. While the press conference is happening, Twitter starts exploding with news that a high profile case about a missing girl has come to an end because her remains have been found. Half a minute later, there’s alerts that three officers have been shot in California. Some might call this a stressful day. My team calls it Friday.

At the beginning of this year, I concluded my very first year as a crime (and weird news!) editor. I won’t lie to you, I’m not nearly as impressive as my teammates. My job is primarily social media based and my coverage of crime news is wholly useless without them. Many members of my team are reporters who find comfort in the chaos down at crime scenes or in the thick tension of a court room. Others are editors with the uncanny ability to go to most any length to get to the truth of a story. I never intended to work in crime news, certainly not for lack of interest, but rather an egregious lack of awareness.

When I started last January, I was like most people my age when it came to crime news. I knew the big stories – the Amanda Knoxs, Ariel Castros, and the BTKs of the world. But, as is true with most things, you never realize what you’re not seeing until you’re in the thick of it. I had never realized exactly how much of the world’s evil and general insanity that I had shielded myself from until I was all but consumed by it. Every single day I found – and still find – myself talking and reading about murder, rape, school shootings, missing persons, and more than you could ever possibly imagine that falls within and beyond those boundaries. It wasn’t until recently that I had that moment where I said to myself, “Have I really been that oblivious to this all along?”

Truthfully, I know the answer to my own questions: I haven’t been oblivious, I’ve just been conditioned to not care. We live in a world where the world’s tragedies are blasted all over Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We’ve grown too accustomed to making a face or an outward moan of discontent at a story or an update and then just scrolling on by it. The world has made it easier for us to be in the know about everything, but it’s also made it much easier to not care. And we should care. I’m not saying we all need to become philanthropists or activists or volunteers, but we should at least show care.
We should care because we should not only know the names of Adam Lanza, Jodi Arias, Eric Frein, and James Holmes. We should also know that there have been 50 school shootings in 2014 alone and gun control legislation is something we have an actual say in. While we live in a country where most anyone can purchase a firearm, we also need to acknowledge that we have the ability to vote. We don’t need to stand in front of a child with a gun to make a difference. We can try to encourage the necessary changes so we don’t have any more numbers to tack on to the list of statistics.
We should care because Clayton Lockett was one of 30 people executed last year and it took him two hours to die. We live in the 21st century and we live in a country that, for the most part, believes in capital punishment so why should the word “botched” ever be associated with how someone is supposed to be justifiably killed?
We should care because racism and police brutality are not just facets of life in the never-forgotten 1960s Civil Rights movement. They are harsh realities of modern life, epitomized in the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. We should care because the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown is not just a commentary on the negative way black victims are often depicted in the media. It is a sign that we have a clear divide in how we view criminals in this country. We should care because the color of your skin does not mean you deserve to be shot any more or any less than any one else.
I spent the last year of my life getting a crash course in crime and I wouldn’t trade it for a damn thing. The crime world has taught me more about human behavior than I could have ever learned in a classroom and my education has made me a more informed voter, advocate, and activist. I don’t expect the rest of you to go out and become crime journalists but, please, do yourself a favor and don’t just scroll past the next crime story on your newsfeed. I ask you this not because my team worked hard to write it, but because you care about bettering this crazy world we live in.


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