Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It's not just news, it's people

Second layoff likely means —30— for journalism career

It was 2:30 in the morning on a late summer day in 1985 or ’86, I think, when the call came. The Carbon County Fair was in full swing in Rawlins, Wyo. that week, and until a tragic incident the prior afternoon, I had been tasked to “cover the fair.”

Instead, I was called away to cover a standoff in which a mentally ill man ended up being shot by police when he attempted to use a large knife to attack an officer. Authorities would not discuss the incident with another reporter at the paper, and my boss hoped I would have more success. And I did.

“Where do you get off writing stuff like this? You made my brother look like a criminal,” the caller said. The raw emotion in his voice was thick with anger, but also, I felt, with anguish. I recall imagining vividly that there must have been tears in his eyes as he talked.

“No, I don’t make anyone look like a criminal,” I responded, rubbing the sleep from my eyes and trying to keep my voice low so my wife, who had answered the call, could get back to sleep. “He did that himself. I accurately reported what happened.”