We haven’t done crime yet, right? Here you go. You are the crime reporter for The Daily Grind, your campus newspaper at Greentown University, a major California university.
Write a story based on the following facts for Thursday’s paper/homepage. You might want to interview a student for his/her reaction to the situation. Meanwhile, Suzy is unavailable for comment. This is the information you have obtained from the local Greentown police.
It is your ONLY source of information, and police are, by definition, a biased source.
a. Suzy Green, 20, of 209 Greenvale Hall was sexually assaulted on Sunday evening.
b. Location was behind Black Library, the campus library, at about midnight as Ms. Green was walking back to her residence hall alone. She had been studying for an organic chemistry midterm.
c. A man with a stocking mask displayed a knife, forced her into the bushes behind the library, and attacked her. He threatened to kill her if she screamed.
d. The assailant ran off with her backpack, containing her books, notes, wallet, credit cards and keys. She called police shortly after returning to her room.
e. She described the man to police as 6 ft, about 200 lbs, athletic build, with a barbed-wire tattoo around his neck. She said he reminded her of a former classmate, John Johnson, from St. Paul, Minn.
f. Police said this was similar to a description given by two other victims, both Greentown University students, of similar attacks since the quarter began. In all, there have been four reported sexual assaults in the area surrounding the university during this period.
g. The victim had multiple scrapes and bruises on her neck, arms and legs. She was escorted to the hospital, where doctors performed an exam that corroborated her story.
h. Police have not been able to locate Mr. Johnson, who no longer attends the university.
i. One of the other victims also said the man wore a stocking mask. In the two others, no mask was used. All involved a knife. In all cases, the assailant stole the victim’s backpack. In all cases, the victims’ backpacks contained their keys
j. The reported sexual assault is the 16th this year in this city, compared with two during the same period last year.
k. Police chief Bob Roberts said he is forming a task force composed of police, rape crisis center officials, university officials and alumni to see what can be done.
l. University officials say they will repair emergency telephone lines around the campus and review lighting both on-campus or in the surrounding neighborhoods, but have not said when they will begin the work.
m. University officials join the police in advising women to walk only in well-lighted areas of the campus after dark and to avoid walking anywhere alone. Students are also advised to keep their house or dorm room keys in their pockets rather than their backpacks.
n. Anyone with any information regarding this particular crime or others that are similar is encouraged to call the local police station.
o. Hmmm. I wonder what the crime rate is like at other universities in the state.
To write the story, start with a quick outline: Answer the question: what’s the news? What is the public interest in reporting this story to the readers of the Daily Grind? In other words, what if anything should readers know about this incident or its aftermath? So ask yourself: What is the most significant information to report? Then what? And then what? And so on, down the page. (Hint: do NOT be misled by chronology or by the order of the facts as listed above. And think beyond the incident itself. What is important about this? What – if anything — do the readers most need to know? And why? You’ll want a lead that tells the reader the relevant news straight up. If there is a larger issue, allude to it in the lead, then elaborate on that in your nutgraf. But don’t go beyond the facts, and be sure to eliminate any editorializing whatsoever for the entirety of your story. Follow the lead with essential details. Transition to your nutgraf, linking the immediate news to the larger issue, if there is one. Expand if necessary. Then transition back to the news at hand, supplying the reader with the facts in descending order of importance. Remember that when you are reporting on crime, the main issue is not the sensational story, but the public interest (if there is one). Also, because every source in any kind of crime story – including the official sources such as police officers, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, victim and witnesses – is likely to have an agenda, be sure to be transparent in your reporting: Attribute everything. And avoid making assumptions or serving as the mouthpiece for either the police or the university.