Thursday, September 15, 2005

'So mom wakes up, goes downstairs ...'

The stories we've written so far have been fairly straightforward, but you can use storytelling devices like scene-setting leads and anecdotal leads with crime stories. The key is digging for telling details. Here are links to examples in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Baltimore Sun.

A couple of potential crime features surfaced during our trip to Justice Court Wednesday. How about a story on the guy with the multiple DUIs, who has somehow avoided Montana's new law that makes the third DUI a felony punishable by prison time? You might even save a life on the highways. It would take some digging through his history (see his case file), interviews with prosecutors (for details of earlier convictions and explanations of the law), and perhaps even a chat with Orzech. In the end you'd explain HOW in the world this could have happened, and HOW stories always lend themselves to narrative storytelling.

The second story idea comes from the guy who pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining a nonresident hunting and fishing license. By itself the story might rate a brief, but interviews with Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials (The chief of FWP's license bureau is Henry Worsech, 444-2663) and nonresident students (you know who they are) might indicate how common practice the practice is. The irony of our guy getting caught only because his ma applied for Washington hunting license in his name not only give this story a twist but seems to imply that it's not hard to get a Montana resident license, otherwise. The ex-football player's story would make a perfect anecdotal lead.

And speaking of crime stories, I urge you to read Kaimin contributor Caitlin Copple's great job of reporting on the UM student accused of participating in the beating of ex-UM basketball player Sam Riddle ("UM student pleads not guilty in attack on Riddle"). What made her work so remarkable is that she went beyond the formal charges and police details. She actually talked to an eyewitness who raised doubts about the "official" version of the crime.

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