I was working a weekend breaking news shift Sunday when a prison guard was killed in Monroe. This was the first line-of-duty death in the Washington state prison system in 30 years.
Doreen Marchionni was the Sunday editor and she writes below about how we used social media to report and the the journalism issues we dealt with on deadline throughout the day.
When an inmate kills a young female guard in a prison chapel on a weekend, you pray hard as a newspaper editor you can do the story justice. Going against you:
- It’s a weekend, so your reporters’ ability to get through to sources will be tough.
- Prisons are para-military organizations tight-assed about releasing information on ANY subject.
- Prison guards rarely if ever die in the line of duty, so there’s little reporting precedent to fall back on.
On Sunday morning, The Seattle Times got word that someone strangled a female guard at a Monroe, Wash. men’s prison with an apparent microphone cord. The 5-foot-3 slip of a guard was alone and complained repeatedly to her bosses about fears of being attacked in the chapel while working solo at a complex where inmates largely roam free and guards carry no weapons.
On reporter rotation that day was Sharon Chan, the Times’ technology reporter more accustomed to dealing with Microsoft nerds than cops; Carol M. Ostrom, a veteran Times reporter with a wild mane of hair and loud, raspy voice; and Jonathan Martin, the paper’s baby-faced Big Government beat specialist with prodigious investigative talents that belie his youth.
For most of the day, we wrestled with issues peculiar to big, breaking stories, especially involving death: