In the few years I’ve been working as a journalist I’ve learned things they never could have taught me in school. One of those things is that journalists aren’t quite right.
We tell morbid jokes, we rejoice when we’re asked to leave property and we never falter when it comes to the question of whether to cross the police tape or not. Always cross, never look back.
I’m fairly absorbed in the culture of reporters and journalism so it always surprises me when I tell an outsider a story and the reaction is the complete opposite of my cohorts.
I like telling jokes. It’s how I was raised, never taking myself too seriously and laughing my way through life.
The problem with journalists jokes is that we are engulfed in sad news, terrible circumstances and situations that in most circles wouldn’t be joking matters.
Joking, though, takes us out of the seriousness of it, the sadness of the reality of what we deal with and helps us in our day to day. I wouldn’t have lasted a week in this field if I would have thought about every death I had to write about and every pervert sitting in jail.
Jokes get us through the tough stuff. So outsiders of journalism, just excuse us when we seem unfeeling and crass — it’s just a defense mechanism.
I’ve never been taught to talk back, question authority or make a fuss if things don’t go my way. My mother’s solution to most problems is to back off and let by gone’s be by gone’s.
In the newsroom, if you don’t fight for information, question authority or raise a stink when you’re not getting what you want you’re doing it wrong.
I love when you hear someone yelling on the other side of the phone, or when I’m the one having to put a firm foot down because when the phone is hung up everyone cheers, congratulates and gives you a pat on the back.
Things are done differently in the news world.
Last week there was a young girl killed in a wooded area in between some residential homes. It’s sad, yes, but that is not the story.
The press release was literally three sentences with zero detail. Well that wouldn’t do.
So off I went on a quest to find something, anything. And find it I did.
After what felt like years, I finally stumbled onto the street, which turned out to be a small road that dead ended with one home and lead to the wooded trail where her body was found.
When I arrived, the Sheriff’s Office was collecting their police tape and heading out leaving behind one, small yellow piece of tape.
Most people would walk up to the tape look over it and walk away. In the world of reporting, that just doesn’t seem like you’ve tried hard enough.
An arrest had been made, most of the tape had been removed and the Sheriff’s deputies were gone so I figured the small strip of tape was more of a suggestion, which I didn’t abide by.
I casually walked under the tape and found the trail where I assumed she had been killed. Of course, I was this far, might as well keep going. I found every entrance blocked off, found an apartment complex that had been questioned the night before and got some excellent quotes.
Then, as I was making my way back to my car, I found myself hiding behind a bush as a group of people — I have no clue who they were — were making their way under the yellow tape.
There were two entrances, so I stealthily walked the opposite way of the folks headed to the trail until I had made it out of the path and to my car. (Without being seen, I might add.)
Reporters, we’re not normal.