The ESPN ticker scrolled across the bottom of the screen on the TV in Henry’s room.
“Two Harper University athletes have been stabbed according to The Harper Herald, the school’s student newspaper.”
“Dude, that’s my story. I wrote that article,” I told Henry. He didn’t say anything, obviously not nearly as impressed by the ticker’s message as I was.
At least I thought it was badass that an article written by yours truly was cited by ESPN. That’s right, the ESPN. OK, maybe to some this may not seem that great, and it’s not like they actually said, according to Will Holland of The Harper Herald, but still, that means somebody from ESPN read my article.
Earlier that day I was woken up by the song, “Highway to the Danger Zone,” which I had set as my ring tone the previous night for a military themed date party.
“Oh, what a beating,” I thought as I rolled over to look at the clock. I was sure it was no later than 8 a.m. “12:54? What the fuck?” I grabbed my phone. “Hello,” I grumbled into it.
“Hey Will, are you busy right now?” It was Nanette, the assistant managing editor of The Herald and my boss.
“Umm no, I’m just hanging out,” I said.
“Well can you come look into a story for us?”
“Yeah, I’ll head over to the newsroom.” I hung up the phone and sat up in bed. “Fuckin’ shit,” I thought as I jumped down and searched through booger encrusted eyes for the jeans and T-shirt I had worn yesterday. I slid them on, grabbed my phone and keys, and was out the door without looking in a mirror.
I got to the newsroom, which is on the campus of the university, three minutes later.
“So what’s goin’ on,” I asked as I walked in.
“We heard two HU athletes were stabbed last night,” Nanette said. Describe her
“Holy crap,” I said. “Does anybody else have this story yet?”
“No, it’s just kind of a rumor right now.”
I reached for my phone in my pocket, quickly dialing the Kate City Police Department phone number. I had it memorized because, as the cop beat reporter for The Herald, I had to call it a lot.
I was greeted by an answering machine telling me to call back during normal business hours.
“How can a fucking police department be closed?” I asked no one in particular. “Who are the athletes who were stabbed?”
“We’ve heard it was Jarrod Stacey and Thomas Bailey,” Nanette said.
I logged in to my Facebook account, and typed Stacey’s name into the search box, hoping that his profile would be available for anybody to view.
I looked at his wall, and low and behold the most recent post on it was from some girl.
“Yo dawg! I heard you got stabbed!?”
“I would say the rumor has been confirmed.”
“A wall post on Facebook is not good enough,” Nanette said.
We needed somebody to tell us this on the record. Next I looked for friends that I had in common with Stacey. “Hmmm, only three people.” But one happened to be someone I kind of knew.
I made a few phone calls and had his number in no time. “Now for an awkward phone call,” I thought.
“Hey man, it’s Will…Holland.”
“Oh hey man, what’s goin’ on?”
“Nothing, dude. Listen, I work for The Herald this semester, and we heard Jarrod Stacey was stabbed last night. Do you know anything about that?”
“Oh no man, I don’t even know the guy.”
“Well y’all are friends on Facebook.”
“Oh yeah, I just added him because he’s on the football team.”
“Fuck.” On to plan C.
“Call the hospital,” Nanette said. “If you have the person’s name they have to give you at least a one word status update.”
So I called the hospital, and this apparently was not an accurate statement from Nanette. At least according to some supervisor, who sounded like she hated her life, over at Kate City Regional.
OK, on to plan D.
While I had been calling everybody and their brother, our sports editor was having an email conversation with Terrance Hromas, the communications director for the Harper athletics department.
Apparently, Hromas was notorious for shunning reporters if they didn’t go directly through him when reporting on a story that involved the athletics department.
And of course, Hromas was keeping tight-lipped on this story. We needed someone, anyone, to tell us on the record that Stacey and Bailey were stabbed, but Hromas was not going to be the guy to do it.
“Hey Will,” Meredith, a fellow Herald reporter said. “One of my friends said there was some fraternity party last night that a lot of HU athletes were at.”
I found the event posting on Facebook for the party in question, and luckily enough for me, the address was included on the posting. I was out the door and behind the wheel of my truck in seconds.
I got to the address and discovered what looked like an old, rundown bar. When I walked up, all the doors were locked, and there was literally no sign of human life. I did see a sign out front that just had a phone number on it.
“What the hell,” I thought. “It’s worth a shot.”
I called the number, and a man picked up the phone. I could hear kids screaming in the background.
“Hi, I’m Will Holland from The Harper Herald,” I said in my most professional sounding reporter voice. “Do you know anything about some stabbings at your bar last night?”
“I have no comment,” the voice said, then dial tone.
Well, at least now I could verify the address with the police reports the KCPD put up on its Web site, I thought. When I got back to the newsroom I did just that, and it was confirmed that the police had responded to a fight involving knives, guns, and tire irons last night at the location in question.
Unfortunately, the report did not have any names of victims, so I still didn’t have enough information to publish the names of the athletes.
My last plan was to walk over to the dorms that many of the athletes stayed in and simply ask the people there if they had heard anything.
I would have done this sooner, but I knew all the athletes were trained not to talk to the media without permission from Hromas.
I got to the building and confronted the first person I saw.
“Hi, I from The Herald. Do you know anything about any stabbings last night?”
“Naw, man, sorry.”
I asked like eight million more people before, finally, a big muscular looking dude gave me the answer I needed. He confirmed everything we had heard, and from that, we were able to go to Hromas.
We told him we knew which athletes were stabbed, and we were going to publish it regardless of whether he talked to us or not. He decided to talk to us.
By ten o'clock that night we had the story up on our Web site. My byline was on it, and several other reporters got contribution credits.
“This is how a college newspaper is supposed to work,” our editor in chief announced to the newsroom. “If it happens at our university, we should be the ones to break the story.”
The next day, several other news organizations in addition to ESPN cited our story in their coverage of the stabbings, and although this may not be that impressive to my friends, it made me feel like a professional reporter for the first time in my very brief career.
© Copyright 2016 Will Holland. All rights reserved.