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A Tribune Reporter Tells The Whole Story Of Covering Overnights

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 26, 2014 5:45PM

Photo credit: Brian Bochenek

As a news wonk, we tend to follow people on social media who have similar interests and can provide a balanced perspective to the issues Chicago struggles to find answers for almost daily—issues such as local politics, economic development and, of course, the constant struggle to curb violence in the city's depressed South and West Side neighborhoods. The overnight reporters who keep an ear attuned to police scanners for breaking stories of shootings and major crimes, such as the Tribune's Peter Nickeas, do so much more than report victims of violence as simple statistics; they know the real story is more nuanced and deeper than the Greek Chorus of Idiocy that online commentary on news stories so often devolves.

Tribune reporter Adam Sege, like Nickeas, made police scanners part of his reporting arsenal, along with a point and shoot camera, a notepad, a laptop with an Aircard to post his stories and photos directly onto the Tribune's content management system, and a bulletproof vest he donned whenever he ventured into crime scenes to get the details of a story. Sege writes about his two years covering these stories in a sobering essay for Latterly magazine that should be required reading in a "TL;DR" age. (That's "too long; didn't read" for the uninitiated.)

Sege paints a picture of reporters doing yeoman's work on the graveyard shift, police scanners echoing in the silence of empty newsrooms, "I listened for chaos, for the raised voices indicating a car chase. I listened for calls about house fires," Sege recalls. "Mostly, though, I listened for shootings." He recalls the screams of victims' loved ones when they discover what transpired.

"People scream. Piercing, awful shrieks that tell you the person is feeling something no one should, that you hope you never do. Once, a grieving sister’s howls subsided as she started to vomit.

"It takes several hours for detectives to take pictures and collect evidence. Often, by the time the body removal company arrives, much of a victim’s extended family has gathered near the crime scene.

"At one West Side shooting, I stood at the end of a block as a team brought a covered body on a gurney out of an apartment building. As they wheeled it to a waiting van, the sound of sobbing floated through the night.

Sege, along with Nickeas and others, recognize that these victims of shootings and stabbings are more than statistics. They're someone's son or daughter, mother or father, husband or wife. These reporters realize it may take more than a good upbringing and will to overcome unrelenting poverty and desperation, and the institutional racism at the foundation of it all.

If this is the season for compassion for one's fellow man, this is the article to read.