As soon as she walked out of the elevator and into the lobby to sign me in, I learned my first lesson of the day: not all reporters are old and gray. It was a really pleasant surprise to be shadowing someone only four years older than me, and this was her second reporting job she had held since college. Her name is Ashley Luthern, and she is a crime, safety and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She graduated from Youngstown State University in Ohio where she was a reporter and editor for the school paper, and then got a job working for a small town paper in Ohio before taking the job in Milwaukee a year ago.
After giving me a short tour of the newsroom, we sat down at her desk where she showed me popular story she had written on the previous day. It was about a man in Germantown who received a lot of police and media attention for exercising his right to carry firearms in public. She was able to show me a site that recorded online activity on published stories. That particular story was the third most popular of the day for the journal, after stories on the Packers and Brewers.
At 10 a.m. there was a meeting which I was able to sit in on. Editors discussed how to attack certain stories and asked certain reporters when they would be ready to be published. It was really interesting to watch how the editors made sure the reporters were gathering material from both sides of a story.
At 11 a.m. we left the newsroom to look for stories at the police station. Ashley told me that criminal procedure is different in Wisconsin than in Ohio, and these differences do affect how quickly a crime can become news. First we looked through yesterday’s arrest record to see if there were any arrests on suspicion of homicide. There were a few, but Ashley told me that these would not be printable stories yet, unless the arrested had any interesting criminal background to write about.
After that leaving the station for the circuit court building to check out these names and go through that week’s search warrants. It was interesting to learn that police also need a type of search warrant to do blood work on a suspect. One warrant was on a West Allis man who admitted to smoking pot and then hitting a pedestrian with his car. The pedestrian died two days later. Ashley made a copy of the warrant asking permission to do blood work. She told me that this would probably end up as a news brief.
I did learn a lot about the life of a reporter on my job shadow. It seems to be a busy job where you develop many working relationships with people inside and outside of the newsroom. A reporter also gets to talk with many interesting people, and it seems that a reporter must be highly organized, especially with their time.
Here is some advice Ashley gave to me as a student journalist