Thursday, August 16, 2007

Internship Pt. 3: Reporting on a Murder

On Tuesday, July 29, our assignment editor came in with a tip that there was a murder in the small town of Bloomsbury in the northwest corner of the county. In Hunterdon County this is big news. The last murder was two years ago, and Bloomsbury is a small borough of less than 900 people – that was characterized by one reporter as Mayberry RFD.
A buzz of excitement went through the room as reporters tried to get information about it. State police confirmed the crime, but wouldn’t say anything else. The reporter that usually covers this town was on vacation, and most everyone else was working on stories for deadline. The Democrat is a weekly paper which is printed off site on Wednesday, so Tuesdays are very busy.
It was decided that I should take a camera, drive to Bloomsbury and see what I could dig up. I have to admit, I was really excited. This was big news for the paper, and I really wanted to come back with something we could write a story about.
When I got there, state police had barricades set up at each end of the block. With the murder scene in the middle of the block, I knew I wasn’t going to get a usable picture or even be able to see the address. So I parked my car, and walked around the block to see what I could find.
The first person I talked to was getting out of his car after a trip to the store. His house was directly across from the barricade and he didn’t even know what had happened. I had more luck as I walked up to the street behind the murder victim’s house. A woman was going up the steps into a local business. I asked if she would talk to me and she reluctantly agreed telling me that she was the one who called the police. Apparently, guys who worked in the shop found identification material and makeup from the victim behind their building which borders on a NJ Transit high-speed rail line. They turned in the materials to this woman who called the house several times and then knocked on the door before going home for the day. She called police when no one answered.
The next person I talked to was a former state trooper who surprisingly had no misgivings about talking to me. He lives very close to the victim and gave me some great quotes and some information that the state police told him. I was on a roll and spent the next couple of hours knocking on doors, observing police behavior (a helicopter buzzed the neighborhood) and visiting borough hall and the general store where many locals come for lunch.
In the end, I had details that no one else was able to get. Another reporter, Curtis Leeds, worked his contacts with the state police and prosecutor’s office to complete the story. Of course, the officials were giving out very little information and weren’t happy with the information that we printed.

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