Sunday, May 20, 2007

Some thoughts on the reports

I've seen everybody reflecting on their Medill Reports, and I can understand. My issues have been slightly different though. It's not about the access, its about what happens once you get the access.

The background on my story is that I'm follwoing the story of a young man convicted of murder, but who might have been wrongly convicted. The sole witness on whom the entire conviction was based has told people he was lying, now he has to be found.

But there are a ton of inherent risks involved in a story like this. The first is that on Tuesday, I'm going to jail to interview a convicted murderer. Yea, it was a tremendous feeling knowing that I got the interview, but now what? First of all, it is a little unnerving to conduct an interview in a maximum security prison. And while I generally believe in this guy's case, I've never spoken to him before. I don't know what he's like. And my entire story hinges on his ability to communicate his point of view.

I also get one shot at that interview. One chance to ask the questions, one chance to get all the shots I need. That's a lot of pressure.

The second part of my story was the part that got me on edge. The murder was gang and drug related. And while I do believe this man convicted was probably innocent, that means there is somebody out there who did do this. And that person probably won't be too happy with attention being refocused on a case they considered dead.

The murder took place on the far west side and it was important that I go out there and shoot some locator video and get a sense of the neighborhood. When I told this to an investigator at the Center on Wrongful Convictions, he insisted that he come along, to have our back. And I'm pretty thankful he did.

It was a complete culture shock. He would point out drug dealers on the corners, every car would slow down and look at us. Someone came up to us asked what we were doing there, he told them a story on real estate. I would never have come up with that one on my own.

But I started thinking about what it would have been like to go out there alone, or me and another Medillian. I would have feared for my physical safety. I don't know, after you get the interview, after you find your story, there are still so many more hurdles.


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