Once a year Now and again I clean off my computer’s desk top.
Gone now is the mug shot of the man accused of cutting eye holes in the portable toilets at the park. The toilets were parked next to each other. The peep holes lined up. So he sat in one, peering away, until a mother with a child noticed there were eyes staring at them through holes in the wall. She called the cops. He went to county. The mug shot creeped up my desktop until I deleted it yesterday with a *shudder* and a “Guh…”
I also found the below shot. I added labels.
A co-worker took this screen shot after I pregnant photo bombed a TV reporter’s spot on a suicide in a school hallway. This TV reporter was smart, very smart, not to ask me to get out of his shot. Annoying a pregnant woman on a deadline at a media herd event is never a good idea. Good move. In your shot, am I? Then YOU MOVE.
The media here is pretty friendly out at scenes. The same reporter let me charge my iPhone in his news van at a stand off once. Was also pregnant with Eli at that one, in 90+ degree heat and had forgotten charger due to pregnancy brain…van had AC. Very kind, sir!
I write about crime, which frequently entails articles about violent or mysterious deaths. At times I’ll write an obituary when someone of note dies.
I learn a lot from the dead. Sometimes, the dead are downright inspiring.
New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid is from Oklahoma City. He died working in Syria. I interviewed his dad, Buddy, who told me:
“He wanted to put a human face, not on the bombs, but on the people the bombs fell on.”
I agree with that strategy.
Shadid grew up in a prominent Oklahoma City family. His cousin is currently running for OKC mayor. Their descendants were immigrants who fled Lebanon years ago, landed in the plains, worked hard, and, over generations, became lawyers, engineers and doctors. Anthony was different. He became a journalist.
Last weekend another notable Oklahoma journalist died. His name was J. Leland Gourley. He died a successful man. At one time, he ran a governor’s campaign. For his columns and journalism, he won hundreds of awards. At 94, he went to work every day for a weekly paper called Oklahoma Friday, a peppy little publication well-loved by the locals. He owned and ran it for almost 40 years. In our archives at work, he was a constant fixture in the society pages.
Gourley wasn’t a stranger to hardship. His mother died of tuberculosis. His father left for the oil fields, abandoning his son to start a new family in another state. At 12, Gourley found himself alone in the world. He was shuffled among relatives who took him on, at times, with very little enthusiasm. It was the height of the Great Depression. He overcame it all and made something of himself.
“He just charged ahead,” his daughter told me.
“He was first and foremost a newspaperman, and one who made it on his own,” his wife told me on the phone, through tears.
He could write. It took him places.
Clacking away on my keyboard, I had about an hour to get the man’s life story down.
I found each person to be inspirational for different reasons. Shadid, for his choice to be different. Gourley, for the grit and determination he used to overcome his past. Each had a brave heart, the willingness to work hard and talent. Until the end, each man was unstoppable.
Last week, my co-workers and I finished up a series of pieces on mental illness and homicide. Wrapping that up made me want to get organized.
As I deleted mug shots of the accused and photos of the victims of tragedies, I couldn’t help but notice — what I write is sad. It’s a body of work shouldn’t be consumed in a sitting!
Crime may be terrible, but it is also fascinating.
Crime says a lot about us. We like to pat ourselves on the back for moving forward, but are we, really, moving forward? Look around at the poverty, the lack of education, dwindling hope and broken family structures that feed crime.
Moving forward, are we?
Couldn’t say, really … I just ask the questions around here…
Issues arise around crime. A reporter can shed light on the issues. A reporter can help the world understand what’s really going on out there, and give the people in the world causes to get behind. Just maybe, the people in the world will build momentum around some kind of positive change.
Or, maybe not. Crime will always be there…like death…and taxes!
Aren’t I a buzz kill? This must explain my lack of party invitations.
I sent my last nanny a text: “Running late, at quadruple homicide.”
Normally, I don’t go into much detail about my working day outside of work. First of all, no one outside of the office *wants* to hear it. Secondly, by running by mouth it could appear I’m somehow bragging about my proximity to violence. That’s rather gross. I’m wary of that.
I was just really, truly running very very late because we were trying to get a story together on four terrible violent deaths and I am a violent death reporter.
Part of the trick of finding a new nanny was finding a person willing to put up with not just the the special care and attention that Eli needs due to his chronic illness, but the occasional text like the above.
I did find a new nanny! It took us over a month.
She is a criminal justice major!
*This time* I think it’s going to work out!
Mary Poppins – with criminal intelligence…