It’s a murky world out there and as a crime reporter you voluntarily throw yourself into the darkness. Crime reporting or investigative journalism is glamourised by Hollywood, Bollywood and crime novels.
The famous author Stephen King once stated, “I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts!”
This holds true for most people. They get to live vicariously through reading a crime reporter’s accounts of a shadowy criminal underworld. Many a crime reporter around the world has almost reached stardom because of their accounts of sensational crimes. Like the Bofors scandal that broke in 1987, reported by Chitra Subramaniam-Duella and N. Ram for The Hindu.
A crime reporter’s lifestyle is tough, dangerous, demanding and erratic and is definitely NOT for everyone. If you are thinking of becoming an investigative journalist or crime reporter, there are a few things you should know.
5 Things You Must Know About Being a Crime Reporter
1. You’re a Journalist, Not a Cop
This is crime reporting 101. While TV and books might sensationalise a crime journalist’s job, you will not be personally hunting down a serial killer or mafia boss. That is a policeman’s job. Most likely, at first, you will spend most of your time calling up your local police stations to see if they have made any interesting arrests or filed any newsworthy cases. Yawn, right?
It gets better though. Those initial few months calling the cops day in and day out will help you build relations with individual officers. If you do it right, you might just be pleasantly surprised when they call you on their own volition to tell you about a breaking news story.
2. You Need a Strong Stomach
Crime journalism is not pretty. You might find yourself steeped in gory facts that you then have to sort out a report on. You might also have to visit the scene of the crime to get all the facts you need for your story. Depending on the story you are reporting, you might find yourself at the scene of a violent crime with signs of what had occurred still there or victims still being transported away by ambulances. You may also have to interview the perpetrator of a crime who shows no remorse. Tasks like that are definitely not for the fainthearted, especially when it comes to crime reporting in India.
3. You Need to Know What Not to Write
Some crimes are so heinous that reporting all the facts might not be a great idea. You need to have the sensitivity and sensibility to know what to include in your report and what to leave out. Remember, every crime has a victim involved and it is important to be mindful of their (or their family’s) feelings, privacy and culture.
Additionally, you need to know where to withhold information. For example, in cases involving minors or rape victims, the names are withheld from the public. Should you uncover that information through your contacts, it is your responsibility to not print that information even though you have it. As you build your contact base, you might also have confidential sources who have official roles or informants from the criminal world. It is up to you to protect your sources and not reveal who they are. As a rookie crime reporter, your editor will be able to help you with that.
4. Facts vs. Sensationalism
It can be easy to get carried away by adding flourishes to a story. Remember, a crime journalist is not a tabloid reporter. You are responsible for presenting the facts of a crime to the public – not to make wild conjectures. However, facts do not need to be dry or drab. A well-written article will surpass all that. Wondering how to become a crime reporter in India? A good journalism school will teach you all the basics and also train you to report a story ethically while still holding the public’s interest.
5. Research! Research! Research!
The facts are what build a good crime story. So, you need to be meticulous about getting all your facts right. This can require a lot of patience. For example, you might have to spend hours at a police station until one of the investigating officers has time to talk to you or interviewing dozens of witnesses until you have all the facts. No detail, no matter how pointless it may seem to you at the time, is worth discarding right away. For example, if there has been a bank robbery in broad daylight, the public have a passing interest in knowing that the robbers were all wearing masks. However, if you learn those masks were depicting the face of a politician or a celebrity, you have a detail that is sure to grab attention.
To summarise, being a crime reporter requires gumption – and lots of it. So, what is the scope for crime reporting in India? The scope his massive, given the number of newspapers, magazines, tabloids, TV channels and internet-based journalism platforms coexist today. You need to remember it’s not your run-of-the-mill 9 to 5 job; crimes occur at all hours and you may get a call from your contacts at any time. If this sounds like a career you want have, Seamedu’s Degree Course in Broadcast Journalism features an exciting module that will train you for it with faculty who have done their time in the field, so you get to experience what the life of a crime reporter is like before you even graduate.
Admissions open – apply online today!