Covering Crime

Few stories have captured our concern as much as crime this year.

But are telling the whole story? Are we painting in all of the details? Are we breaking hearts and offering no hope?

Come January we’ll follow our gathering this summer of journalists and community groups. We’ll look at what progress we’ve made and  what more needs to be done.

Between now and then, we’ll be talking to the folks who cover crime in Chicago so we can understand them and their work and their goals better. Here’s the first interview,

Steve

Frank Main

Crime reporter – Sun-Times

What kind of violence reporting have you done?

I do stories on murders every day. I always want to know in my stories, why has the murder rate risen? I ask police for information about Englewood, Chicago’s most violent area, and I talk to homicide detectives on the Northwest Side for information as well. There was one case where I covered a murder in Humboldt Park in Palmer Square in 2009, but my editor gave up on the story and told me to leave it alone because the case wasn’t progressing, but I kept writing it and found a story in this murder anyway. There’s always a story. Another time, there was a series of murders back in 2008 in which only one man got charged because so many victims weren’t willing to come forward because these were all gang-related. But I finally got to talk to one of the victims, which made for a really good story, and I ended up winning a Pulitzer Prize in journalism for both of those stories. So, this work can be very rewarding.

What’s the biggest satisfaction from doing crime and violence reporting?

Just the satisfaction that comes from doing individual stories. My favorite story was this one I did about a kid named Dwayne, who was known as ‘Hurricane Dwayne’, who was thirteen and had gotten mixed up in gang activity and got hurt really badly. He wasn’t a bad kid. I did a story about how he was brought back from the brink of death due to violence.

What is an example of something you don’t like doing relating to this job?

I don’t like doing police blotters. It’s all blood and guts stuff and its unfulfilling to do because it’s so impersonal. I like doing stories where I get to know the people, where I can get to the heart of the issue.

What’s something you would like to report on but haven’t been able to?

I know this is a complete fantasy, but I would like to report inside Mexico. Many stories I do are about drug-related violence, and all of those drugs are coming from cartels in Mexico. All of the drug violence can be traced back to Mexico, and of course, I’d like to speak to the guys who are literally billionaires who head these giant ring of drug cartels, but I doubt they’d be willing to talk to reporters [laughs]. Many reporters in Mexico have gotten killed.

What’s the main thing that you try to get into each story?

The main points in a crime story are: Why is this happening, what is being done by police, who should I feel sorry for and who should I hate?

Have you ever gotten scared?

I very rarely get scared, and maybe I’ve developed too thick of a skin and I’m not as scared as I should be. I’ll be walking around the West Side wearing a blue blazer and a press pass around my neck, and don’t get as nervous as I should get. But I always leave when someone tells me to, and I’ve never had a gun pulled on me.

Tell me a little about your background.

I’ve been doing the crime beat since 1999, and I’ve been a reporter since 1987. I graduated from Emory University in Atlanta and studied political science and English, and then went to Medill [School of Journalism] for graduate school and started my work from there.

 


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Written by on November 2, 2012

Filed Under: News Coverage



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