By Morgan Chmielewski
“It’s all a messy desk and cranky sources,” said Kameel Stanley of the life as a journalist. However, do not be fooled by her humor, she truly loves her job covering local crime and contributing to Deal Divas at the Tampa Bay Times. My morning with this inspiring and spunky Times staff writer gave me a unique insight of her world.
Upon my arrival Friday morning, I expected a bustling newsroom. To my surprise, it was a very calm atmosphere with not even all of the ceiling lights on. Kameel insisted that the idea of a busy newsroom was a myth. Her cubicle was adjacent to an intern’s desk and next to Adam Smith’s office. It also had a police scanner in the corner.
As the crime reporter, every morning she calls the police to find out what happened the night prior. Her relationships with the officers on the phone were very amicable, with ten minutes of inside jokes and banter. She was informed of no special reports from the night before, but then explained that it was her week of the rotation to pick up reports from the jail. Her friendliness with the cop showed the importance of good relationships with those you depend on for information.
I noticed the same significance of relations with sources. I overheard Adam Smith, the Times Political Editor, working on a story about a Florida politician. In his office, covered with political posters, he called and left messages with numerous potential sources. After a handful, he reached one that was available and performed an impressive interview. Initially, he vaguely informed the source of his angle of story. Then he asked few, but pivotal questions and then let the interviewee talk for the majority of the phone call. It also concluded with him asking the source for other people that would be good to talk to on this subject.
The dependence on good sources was also highlighted in the interns numerous phone calls to various people. Kameel explained that the interns usually started the day at 6 am to start working on breaking news. She also emphasized the importance of internships- her first was in her initial few years of college. The lack of job security, the availability of jobs, and the competitiveness of the field means that you have to fully commit and work hard to become a journalist. She said it is not something you can fall into easily.
The atmosphere of the Times in the St. Petersburg office was not too cut throat though. There were mock newspapers using employees as their subject matter. There was also a paper saying, “’I think we’re too lazy to haze people.’ -Kameel Stanley on why there’s never been a FAMU-like hazing scandal involving journalists.”
We drove to the jail in Clearwater and quickly picked up a stack of arrests from the night before. She goes through these to see if there are any that are story worthy. I was able to look at them and they consisted of prostitution stings, domestic violence, public intoxication and other crimes. She said her job does get heavy at times. Her contribution to Deal Divas is a good change of pace. Just a few hours after I left, I received a text from Kameel. It said that she was going to a murder scene and she wished I could be there to go with her. I am not sure if I was deeply upset that I missed it or slightly relieved that I did not have to see a real life murder scene. Although I did not see my first murder victim, the day I spent with Kameel was intriguing, insightful, and enjoyable.