By Ashley Stalnecker
Some journalists have changed careers or moved to lighter beats after covering catastrophic events. Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Rachel Crosby said covering the mass shooting on the city’s famed Strip has only made her more passionate about her field.
The 24-year-old had just left the gritty world of nighttime cops reporting to cover courts when a gunman opened fire from a hotel room window onto a country music festival below. She had covered death and empathized with grieving loved ones before, but this was different.
Fifty-eight people were dead. Nearly 500 people were wounded. A city built on fun and frivolity was suddenly the site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
“There was nothing these people did to contribute to what happened,” Crosby said. “They were completely innocent.”
Crosby was settling into bed when the shooting started. Soon, everyone at the newspaper was being assigned to cover it — talking to people who were hurt, preparing obituaries and tracking the investigation.
Two weeks in, Crosby told her editor she wanted to continue covering breaking news. She’s now a general assignment metro reporter and continues to report on the shooting’s aftermath.
“My favorite journalism to pursue is not reporting on the matter-of-fact decision of the judge,” Crosby said. “For me, the initial moments of grief and initial effects of what happened – that is what I like to cover.”
The courts beat offered air conditioning and something closer to a 9-to-5 workday but lacked the thrill of being out on the street — cultivating sources and scouring for news.
Months later, Crosby said the shooting is still affecting the Las Vegas community.
“One person inflicted so much death and physical wounds and traumatized thousands of people including the first responders that went to go help, and terrified a bunch of people,” Crosby said. “It’s something that makes you question humanity.”
Crosby doesn’t think there will ever be an answer to why Stephen Paddock did what he did, but she feels it’s important to understand as best possible what happened.
She said she wants to dissect the events in Las Vegas so people in other places can limit the damage from similar mass casualty incidents in their areas.
“Right now, this feels right,” Crosby said. “I feel like – I’m always going to feel like I could be doing more but I’m content about what I’m contributing to the conversation.”
Crosby said one of the biggest challenges the Review-Journal faced was having many new reporters. Her advice to people like them: familiarize yourself with the area and develop sources outside of your beat in case you’re pressed into duty in a similar situation.
“Get to know where you are as much as possible,” Crosby said. “Not just by working, but by going out to restaurants and bars you like, or by going hiking or just really experiencing all that your city or county has to offer. In some way or another it’s going to be beneficial to your job.”
(Photo/Video by Zoe LaPorte)