Living to see another day (but I get to see the leaves)

Some people think my job is glamorous and exciting. Others think it’s horrifying. It is, in fact, all of those things … and none of those things.

Those who think it’s glamorous and exciting are basing my entire career on the 60-second radio story or the 200-word Web story they hear and see. They don’t hear and see the hours of sitting through meetings, waiting for phone calls, crawling on the ground to plug in equipment.

Those who think it’s horrifying are right. We hear the worst of the worst. The most heinous of crimes. We see details and photos of tragedies we don’t post online or speak of into the mic

However, I liken it to being a doctor or a police officer — minus the fact that people’s lives are not in our hands, of course. If doctors and cops became emotionally invested in every person they treated, every case they handled, took the sadness home with them to their families each and every day, it would not only be detrimental to their careers, but also to their psychological well-being.

And so we do our jobs. While not ignoring the seriousness of the events around us, we plug in our equipment, pen and notebook in hand, and ask the questions, record the answers. We siphon out the legal speak, the minutia, the information too gruesome for public consumption and we bring you the story.

Such is covering an execution. Or, in my case, non-execution.

Here is my experience. It was, as we say, my first time.

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Watching Death

Missouri’s first execution in 17 months is Wednesday morning. We’ll be sending Jessica Machetta to cover it. She has never covered an execution. Neither has our newest reporter, Ryan Famuliner. Brent Martin and Bob Priddy have made melancholy journeys to prisons in eastern Missouri more than 25 times between them to serve as media witnesses.

Brent remarked a few weeks ago that he gets more questions as a reporter about covering executions than anything else he’s ever covered–and that includes the 1993 floods that he covered while working in St. Joseph, one of the biggest targets of the Missouri River that year.

We cover executions because we represent the people of Missouri in whose name this most severe criminal penalty is administered. We cover executions because the inmates have committed crimes in all parts of the state and the people we serve in those areas have a particular interest in the conclusion of this local tragedy that happened so many years ago.

We don’t cover them because we want to. We cover them because we have to.

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