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The investigation in the reporting

Posted: September 6, 2012 9:36 p.m.
Updated: September 7, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews offered me an investigator position at the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office last week.

OK, he didn’t really; but the conversation shined the proverbial heavy-duty law enforcement flash light on the fact that reporters and law enforcement investigators have similar job duties.

Being a reporter is one of the most interesting jobs a person could ever have. Sure I get to write, but I’ve come to find that being an investigator/interpreter is my main job function. The goal of a story is to present information as clearly as possible, but the art and craft of writing falls second to incorrect information and falsity.

Both reporters and law enforcements agents get “cases,” mine is just called a story. Whenever I find, or am assigned, a story, I do whatever background research I can and then I go do the footwork: call people; set up interviews; and determine a preliminary motive, or the focus, of the story. For me, the interview is the most fun part of the job. I get an intimate peek into a wide variety of professions and into people’s lives. Every investigator has their own way of doing things: getting information, finding sources and cross checking all of the above in the most efficient and cost-effective way. You take the tried and true methods and make them work for you.

Reporters, like law enforcement agents, want to know everything up front. We don’t like surprises when we are working on a case; especially if it means we are going to have to start from square one again. We don’t like fabrication or that “oops, I forgot to tell you” or “you didn’t ask” stuff. Tell us everything down to the last detail; not all of it will be relevant or included in our case, but we’d rather have everything up front or we’ll have to find you again. Sometimes people don’t want to talk to either of us, but we will both find a way to get what we need with or without your cooperation (although it helps when you cooperate).

Sometimes cases can pull on our heartstrings. Like every job, there are things that we love about our profession and things we don’t like as much; there are good days and bad days. We love the success stories and hearing about lives that have been changed, but for every dog found there is a life lost. That’s just how the world works. Every day we see people make tough decisions about how to proceed in light of what’s in front of them, yet we strive to stay neutral.

I don’t think that the sole glory of good cops or reporters is the name recognition. Recognition is a fruit of the spirit, so to speak. Consistently honest, reliable and trustworthy cops and reporters have their eye on providing the best service they can in the community in which they reside. You may not like everything we do, but if we are honest, trustworthy and consistent, all you can do is respect us.

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