One of the oldest jokes those in the
reporting business tell on themselves is that if you want a
labor-avoiding job, become a member of a newsroom.
And that is true. Unless we're doing
some kind of odd feature story, we're not doing too much heavy
But it is a job that will wear you down
in other ways. There's a reporter for the Knoxville News Sentinel
named Jamie Satterfield who has spent way too much time covering the
Christian/Newsom horror story masquerading as a murder trial.
I've been riveted by Satterfield's
coverage, finding it terrifying, informative and wondering how in the
world the family members of those two young people can ever possibly
enjoy life again.
I don't know Satterfield. I once sat
across from her at a table at the News Sentinel offices when a few of
us attended a seminar there, but I don't recall speaking to her. I
do recall thinking it was impressive that she seemed so normal
despite covering some of the most horrific murder trials in Knoxville
My point, as I slowly get to it, is
Satterfield has become public enemy number one in the eyes of some
simply due to her coverage of all those Christian/Newsom trials (six
over seven years), and that's one of the ways this job can beat you
up much worse than physical labor.
If you read the News Sentinel's
website (or look at their app on your phone/tablet), they have it set
up so you can comment on certain stories. I've always considered
such a thing both a good and bad idea. It gives you immediate
feedback on your stories, but some of that feedback may not be the
kind you want to read.
Last week, Satterfield wrote a "wrap
up story" about the Christian/Newsom murders and trials and for
some reason, the Sentinel disabled comments after one had been
posted. This didn't deter some as they just commented on it in the
comment section of other stories.
Satterfield does have her supporters,
but her detractors always seem to shout the loudest, calling her
every name in the book, demanding to know why she keeps reporting on
these stories, haven't the families suffered enough?
I seriously doubt Satterfield wakes up
in the morning wondering how she can ruin someone's life, but I can
answer why she keeps writing the stories. Several answers, really.
One, it's big news and somebody will cover it, so put your best on
it. And we reporters like to follow a story through to the end. From
the moment someone is arrested and accused of a horrific crime, to
the moment they're either found guilty or innocent, we're going
to write about it. Call us completists, if you want.
But the main reason she keeps writing
about the murders is because her editor tells her to.
No, really. Reporters, including
myself, are always accused of having an agenda, slanting stories to
match our beliefs, etc. But the truth of the matter is we cover
something, write it up and turn it in. It might get edited, it might
hit the page exactly as we wrote it, but as for whether it runs or
not? Totally out of our hands.
And if an editor (or publisher) doesn't
like what we wrote, we can write it off as a loss, but not worry too
much about it as there's always something else waiting to be
I think a lot of the animosity toward
Satterfield comes from the idea she's apparently hit the lottery
for reporters. She's going to write a book about the
Christian/Newsom case. Now, this could end up one of two ways. The
book could be a huge smash, get made into a movie and Satterfield's
retirement account would be filled and waiting for her when she
finishes out her last notebook.
Or her family members could really love
it and one day a warehouse worker walks in and wonders why there are
20,000 copies of a book about a 20-year-old murder sitting there on
Either way, I think she handled the
coverage well and the family members have never publicly expressed a
problem with her writings. Only the people with silly user names on
an anonymous Internet comment board.
And they're taken about as seriously
as anonymous letters to the editor.
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