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Chicago Tribune Overnight Reporter Talks To NPR About Covering Weekend Shootings

By Jon Graef in News on Jul 12, 2014 7:00PM

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Chicago Tribune overnight crime reporter Peter Nickeas talked to NPR's Bob Garfield on 'On The Media' about how he covers the city's horrific shooting violence. The segment starts around the 25:00 minute mark, and begins with Garfield contextualizing Chicago's violent Fourth of July weekend, which ultimately resulted in over 80 people shot and 16 people killed.

Nickeas explains how he reports the stories, mainly by listening to the police scanners, and going to the scene of the crime. "If there's a shooting, we'll go to the shooting," Nickeas said. "You can count on a certain number of [shootings] during a shift." While scanners are helpful, Nickeas says they only provide a bare minimum of details.

To get the fuller picture, you have to go out and talk to the people there.

"Witnesses aren't often forthcoming--police get to them before [reporters do]," Nickeas said. "But you talk to family, neighbors, residents, piece together what that person's life may have been like, what the conflict that lead to this may be doing to the neighborhood. There's just a lot of ways of looking at violence other than what's been traditionally box score-type coverage."

From there, Garfield and Nickeas have a thoughtful discussion about the considerable difficulties covering the city's shooting violence, including the surreal feeling of covering the Fourth of July shootings, including the harmful cliche of blaming moral decay. Listen here.