"--that the reporters actually get to be witnesses."
Courier-News correspondent Janelle Walker finished my sentence.
Not unless you're Janelle, and you're sitting in Elgin bond call when the accused launches into a rhapsody that starts with, "I WANT MY BOND. WHAT'S MY BOND?" and ends with, "I'm going to pop a cap in your..." uh, matriarch-expletiving expletive. And did I mention he wasn't wearing a shirt at the time? That's what happened when Alex S. Barrera of Elgin (that's him, pictured at right) appeared Friday on theft charges in a video hookup with Judge Bruce Lester.
When I picked up the Saturday police reports documenting Barrera's second trip to bond call, this time on charges of threatening the life of a public official, they named a "Courier-News freelancer" as a witness (the police usually erase the names of the innocent before handing reports out to the papers). After Barrera's threats Friday, the officer filing the report had asked Janelle if he could get some more detail from her, she said.
"Can I just e-mail you my notes?" she asked.
Janelle had been typing the whole time, she said.
"It's what we do every day. So that was funny. ... That's the difference between an eyewitness and a reporter -- we write things down."
That's why I'm taking Janelle's word Barrera had threatened to "pop" the judge's beep-beeping beep. That was how both journalists at bond call quoted him in the police report. Other witnesses had him saying he'd "put a cap in" the judge's blankety blank blank.
And that's yet another reason why we need newspapers: Journalists make the best eyewitnesses. We're trained eyewitnesses. And you'll want us on your side when your lawyer maintains "pop" leaves a lot more wiggle room than "put a cap in."
-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter