When I first majored in journalism, I knew that homicides were something I never wanted to do.
A week ago, I changed my mind.
I was sipping a cup of Chai tea and getting ready to slip into my PJs when I received an email on my iPhone.
The Winnipeg Free Press wanted me to cover a homicide.
I’ve never heard my name and homicide in the same sentence before. But there it was sitting comfortably on the screen of my phone:
“Liz, can you cover a homicide?”
Was this some sort of pre April Fools joke? Was there another Liz Fraser in the newsroom with the exact same Gmail account? Surely this email was sent to the wrong person.
I was afraid to say yes. But I was even more afraid to say no.
So much for that sappy romantic comedy I was hoping to cry over that night.
So I pulled on my long johns that replaced my comfy PJ’s, stole a bunch of pencils from my roommate, and jammed them into my jacket pocket.
Since my sense of direction is non-existent, I typed ‘Osborne Street Bridge’ into my Google Maps. It led me to a curling club in St. Vital…investigative reporting, here I come.
As I was driving around in circles, I called the 85 people on my contacts list asking where this ‘said bridge’ was located. I was also sending emails to my editor at every stoplight on Portage Avenue.
Once I got myself sorted. I decided to take a leisurely stroll on the bridge and look around for anything I could find: police tape, flowers, maybe a few drops of blood here and there.
To be honest, I was petrified that I wouldn’t find anything.
But once I discovered the ripped police tape on the side of the bridge, I knew I was in the right place.
My big moment of investigative journalism was interrupted with a phone call from my mom. She told me she didn’t like me wandering the streets of Winnipeg at night when there were killers running around.
I decided it would be best if I didn’t tell her the strange places I ended up later that evening.
The first girl I chatted with was a gas pump attendant. She gave me the name of the 18-year-old who was murdered. The two of them were best friends growing up.
I checked him out on Facebook. We had a zillion friends in common. So I started calling around until I was able to get my story.
I interviewed his friends. They were all pretty devastated and I witnessed more tears than any romantic comedy could ever provide.
Later that night, I ended up standing in an elevator talking to a professional cyclist. He told me what he heard the night of the assault and what it means to be a professional athlete.
I also wound up in some guy’s apartment. He was throwing a party while I was throwing him questions.
I was also chasing after vehicles in parking lots to find out if residents in the apartment building beside the bridge heard or saw anything the night of the assault.
Then I frantically whipped my story together in an hour and half.
One of the baristas at the Starbucks told me my homework looked really stressful.
I told her she was right. Journalism is stressful.
It’s also like a hormonal teenager.
In a sick way you’re excited about playing detective, and being the first one to discover the identity of a person who has just been murdered.
But then you’re sad and depressed because you’re interviewing friends and family whose hearts have just been squished by a wood clamp.
But then you’re happy again because they open up to you. They feel comfortable enough to share their story and the story of their loved one.
Yes, your pencil and notepad are both important. But don’t forget to take your heart with you.
You’ll need to grab it from your back pocket right after you find the police tape.