Chen Yijun trails a reporter on the crime beat

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I spent two days  job shadowing with Kathryn Haake, a cops and courts reporter for the Missoulian. On both days, our first thing to do was to look up special cases in criminal records, jail records and court schedules. We looked for people who had just been charged with a committing felony crimes, including a former college basketball player who was charged with selling drugs.

Police and crime news is not like other news. It requires great efficiency and timeliness in the reporting because what happened today must be written today. After we looked through the records, we talked to officers in police station and at the sheriff’s office for more details and things we may have missed. These cases are undoubtedly depressing, but it is exciting to know every clue leading to the truth.

On day two we covered the sentencing of a transient man who beat another man within inches of his life over a pork chop. The transient was sentenced to 15 years in prison. This story sounds just as ridiculous as it really was. We rushed to the courtroom at 10 o’ clock to see the sentence and noticed that the defendant is also a multi-state offender. Kate was taking notes to get a general view and recording the audio in case she needed accurate quotes, which are helpful to put together the story.

She had three stories to report this day. There was only one during day one. This unpredictability makes the daily routine different and more interesting.

Thanks to thoughtful Kate for taking me and Zhang Kaiju to see the jail. I learned a lot about the jail system, and “jail” is now a less scary word.

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