It’s called a “pick up” or a “death knock,” and it’s among the most unpleasant tasks a general assignment reporter on the city desk can draw.
The most experienced of our breed can get a grieving mother to unchain her door, make a pot of tea, and unspool woeful stories of her lost love, usually urged on by an invitation to “set the record straight” about son Jimmy the Bank Robber or make sure Little Emily the Heroin Addict isn’t misremembered. The most tenacious of us leave the widow’s home with an entire photo album under our arm so there are no pictures left for media outlets late to the tea party.
This is another one of those tasks that journalism school can’t prepare you for.
So many years ago, in Deep Cove, B.C., a nine-year-old boy left home on his bicycle early one morning. When he didn’t return for lunch, his parents wandered the neighbourhood, calling his name. When the police later knocked on their door, they said the helmet-less boy had been found at the bottom of a cliff. It was assumed he’d accidentally plunged to his death.
My assignment: knock once again on the parents’ door, get a few quotes about proposed B.C. bike helmet law, and a photo of their lost boy. Continue reading