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A Beginner's Guide to Blotter Plotting

Crime reporting



So you want to be a Blotter writer? Well, good news. Anyone, not just employed journalists, can drive down to the police station and make a go at it. You might have a problem finding a place to publish your Blotter, but that's another story. You're doing it because you have a passion for crime reporting, not for the payday (which is only marginally above minimum wage anyway).

Rule # 1: A good Blotter writer is only as good as his/her report.

Most crimes are boring, and looking through a pile can feel like searching a haystack without a guarantee that a needle lies within. Sometimes you may return from the "Cop Shop" empty-handed or with only one report about someone who ran out of a store with candy stuffed in his pants (a more frequent occurrence than you might think).

There will be times when you think about committing crimes so you can write about it. Resist this urge. They don't give you access to the police reports from inside the jail.

But the next time someone swipes a jar of pickles and while running out of the store, shouts, "I will avenge the imprisonment of my dilled brethren!" think twice if that person is really a paranoid schizophrenic and not just a desperate Blotter writer.

Rule # 2: Know how to concoct funny headlines and when to add a joke.

Unfortunately, this isn't really something you can teach. Some headlines are cakewalks, like when an angry U-haul employee threatened a customer -- U-Die was the obvious headline choice. Others will leave you staring at your computer until your editorial coordinator (who may or may not be named Kim Lawson) hunts you down for not filing the story on time and you are forced to hide under your desk (even though she can clearly see your sneakers poking out from under your cubicle).

Rule # 3: There's no crying in Blotter reporting.

Be callous. Don't let empathy get in your way. You will read stories of domestic violence, homicides, suicides, people losing their iPods.

If you must assign a mental image, try to picture the crimes happening to cartoon characters instead of real people. You know, when the worst thing that happens is a laughably long bump forms on the victim's head after a bop on the noggin. Or if an anvil happens to crush Wily E, he is perfectly restored in the next frame.

Ready to try it yourself? Happy Blottering. See you in the Cop Shop.


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