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Ringside seat on life: Crime beat provides extraordinary access

Writing for a newspaper has changed me.

Some days, I go into work with a cup of coffee and smile on my face, anxiously awaiting the day’s assignment.

Other times, it makes my heart sink.

Being a crime reporter takes its toll. Day after day, I write about abuse, violence and pain.

I see it with my own eyes. I’m at the accident on that street in your neighborhood with my safety vest on, camera around my neck and notepad in my hand – this time, it’s five cars and a tractor-trailer. A woman is sobbing on the side of the road, watching as her loved one is taken away on a stretcher.

Just hours later, reports of a 70-year-old male with chest pains comes over the police scanner. I can almost feel the pain of his family as they hear the news that he’s not coming home from the hospital this time.

I see an obituary several days later that seems to match that description. I utter a simple “rest in peace” under my breath as I read his life story paraphrased down to 800 words.

“He was an outdoor enthusiast – an avid skier and fisherman with a passion for life,” it reads.

A press release comes through the fax machine and shakes me back to reality. Seven people were arrested for drug-related charges. Ten to 15 years in jail, each. I can’t help but think of the circumstances that led them down that path, and if they have a shot at recovery.

But when my fingers hit the keys, my emotions are held in, stored away in a place where only I can access them. I decipher my scribbled notes from my pad, transferring them to text on a screen and follow up with a call to the police station before deadline.

This is news. And reporting it is not always easy.

Sometimes I crawl into my bed at night, utterly restless, thinking about how fragile life can be. How a single moment in time can alter everything. And how, even in our darkest moments, we’re expected to pick up the pieces and continue on with life.

But I’ve learned that you can either let the negative experiences define you, or take them and create something wonderful.

I’m opting for the latter.

As cliche as it may sound, we must always remember to look for the positive. Search for that bright light at the end of the tunnel.

There are so many good things in life to celebrate.

While a large portion of the news does focus on the negative, so much more proves that this world is truly spectacular.

I’ve put in just under six months at The Mining Journal, and have heard more laughter, shared more smiles and felt more joy than I thought possible.

I’ve seen the tears of happiness as one woman was recognized in front of a 300 person crowd for her lifetime of volunteer work.

I’ve held back my own tears watching a mother and daughter work together to achieve a common goal, unknowingly motivating hundreds of others in the process.

I’ve heard the excitement in one archeologist’s voice as he talked about his “discovery of a lifetime.”

And I’ve picked up on the subtle smile of a homeless man after he was given a warm meal and a place to sleep – judgment free – at a local shelter.

My plan is for this column is to focus on everyday experiences – the little things, the big things, the happy, the sad and everything in-between.

This is the year that I turn 25, move into my first home, marry my best friend and experience all four seasons in the beautiful Upper Peninsula after a 7-year hiatus.

I hope you’ll share in this journey with me.

It won’t be easy, but it will definitely be memorable.

If you didn’t see my column’s title, the name I came up with is “All signs point North.”

Editor’s note: Kelsie Thompson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.