Staying Upbeat on the Crime Beat

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News of suffering often overwhelms regular newspaper readers. Crime reporters, however, cannot plead compassion fatigue. Putting stories about murders, rapes, and robberies on the page day after day is tough, writes former Charlotte Observer crime reporter Melissa Manware in Quill,but she believes it’s “the most important work a reporter can do.” 

I also believe that a reporter who really cares about a story, who is emotionally touched by a story, will almost always do a better job of telling it.

The stories I wrote were worth the sad memories that sometimes keep me awake at night. They were worth the tears I shed after deadline, because they made a difference.

Telling these stories is worth the stress, Manware writes, because they can spur readers to help victims or to heal themselves.

In November, I wrote about 15-month-old Sarah Nafisha, who was stabbed nearly to death by her mother. A few weeks later, I got an e-mail from a reader. She said her family was forgoing gifts at Christmas and instead sending the money to Sarah’s father so he could stay out of work and care for her. . . .

That’s what made the work worth the heartache. And that’s what a reporter, especially a crime reporter, has to remember to stay positive when so many of the stories are negative.

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