TROY journalism students get field experience in simulated crime scene

The exercise was held to give student reporters a taste at what real-life reporting will look like.

The exercise was held to give student reporters a taste at what real-life reporting will look like.

Troy University journalism students had a chance to experience reporting at a crime scene in a simulation held Friday morning on the Troy Campus thanks to a partnership between the Hall School of Journalism and Communication and the Troy University Police Department.

Paige Ray, TV Production Coordinator for TrojanVision News, worked with TUPD officials to arrange a crime scene for her television news practicum students to visit and report on. 

Complete with crime scene tape, multiple police vehicles, a fake body covered with a sheet and crime scene photographers, students were greeted at the entrance to the street by officers ordering them to turn back, forcing them into the role of reporter from the very start.

“We can teach them how to handle a camera and how to interview, but it’s different when it’s a situation of this level, when it’s a crime scene and there’s police activity,” she said. “Most people haven’t been thrust into that situation before, and it’s something that can be very jarring to new reporters post-graduation. It was jarring for me, and I want to try to get them prepared for it.”

After getting onto the scene, students were expected to find witnesses to interview, get video of their surroundings and post a teaser online. Shortly after they arrived, TUPD Chief George Beaudry announced a time for a press conference where the student reporters could ask more questions about the incident. 

Mackenzie Foster, a senior broadcast journalism major from Dothan, Ala., and a student reporter working for TrojanVision News and the Tropolitan newspaper, said the simulated exercise was so realistic she felt like she was actually at a crime scene.

Student reporters receive directions from Paige Ray and Chief Beaudry.
Student reporters receive directions from Paige Ray and Chief Beaudry.

“When that adrenaline hit, I truly did feel like I was at a crime scene. It felt very realistic; Paige did a great job setting this up. I’m very happy I have a professor that wants me to get this experience before getting into a situation like this,” she said. “After today, I feel more comfortable getting out of the car and just doing my job. I used to be very reserved, but today I was able to get in, get out, get B-roll shots and do my interviews. I felt very confident.”

Taylor Fraze, a junior broadcast journalism major from Dothan and a student reporter for the Tropolitan, said he learned more about his strengths and weaknesses as a beginner reporter.

“I was nervous about how asking questions during the press conference portion would go and getting interviews, and I know I need to work on getting information up online sooner,” he said. “Now I’m more confident in walking into new situations and just doing it.”

Ray said she was pleased with how her students rose to the challenge and thanked the police department for their willingness to participate.

“They asked lots of questions; they dug for information. They didn’t freeze up, they knew how to act and they sprang into action,” she said. “We couldn’t have done this without Chief Beaudry and TUPD. They’ve always been so willing to help our journalism students. Because reporters and law enforcement have to work together often, I’ve always tried to foster a good relationship, and this is just another way that we can show that working relationship.”

TUPD Sergeant John Daniel Johnson added, “We want to help support our media personnel who are about to graduate. When they’re out in the real world, they’re going to experience things like this, and this is a great way to practice engaging with police and knowing how things operate, what questions to ask, where they can stand. And we got to have fun with this, too. It was a great experience for everyone involved.”