John Buntin is a GOVERNING staff writer. He covers health care, public safety and urban affairs.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Governing has long been committed to reporting stories the old fashioned way: by sending a reporter out to spend several days reporting a story on site. So when we decided to write a piece about Denver's aggressive -- and strikingly successful -- use of DNA evidence to combat property crime, it was clear from the beginning that doing so would entail spending several days talking with officials from District Attorney Mitch Morrissey and Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman to retired officers and members of the Denver PD's cold case unit.
As a writer, I love sitting down with public officials' in their offices (or, in this case, in their mobile crime labs and at the scenes of the notorious crimes they worked) and really listening to what they have to say. There's nothing like being there, three feet away, to cut through the clutter of Blackberrys, conference calls, meetings, and e-mails. But there's another great reason to travel as well. It's not just what you hear; it's what you see. For not only does Governing foot the bill for reporters such as myself to travel, the magazine also frequently sends us out with a talented photographer behind the camera, Governing design director/photo editor David Kidd.
Traveling with David is one of the joys of working at Governing. There's no missing him: he's 6' 5", with long blond hair. There's also the $12,000 of photographic equipment he rolls with it. But it's David's personality, more even than his flair with the camera, that makes traveling with him magic. His friendliness and curiosity about people is like an irresistible infectious disease: virtually everyone succumbs. Interesting revelations and experiences frequently result -- visits to the neighborhood gym where a veteran cop who left the neighborhood long ago still works out, or trips to the rooftop of abandoned row houses with a stunning view of downtown Baltimore. (David loves roofs, train stations, and the chiaroscuro of state capital domes.)
Part of persuading people to open up is being open yourself. During our recent trip to Denver (for a story which will appear in next month's issue) I saw that first hand when David and I wandered into Rockmount Ranch Ware, one of Denver's most fabled establishments. There, David encountered 90-year-old Sam, who'd worked at Rockmount for 62 years. Sam couldn't hear very well, but in no time at all, he'd sold David, who normally tends towards subtle graphite collars, his first snap-button cowboy shirt.
Want to see David in his Western gear? Check back here on Friday.
Until then, to everyone who has ever met with a Governing writer in your office, thank you!
Story Behind the Story appears every Thursday.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.