Keren Rivas gives Elon students advice on crime reporting

By Laura Smith

October 6, 2008

Keren Rivas, a reporter who covers crime and court stories for the Burlington Times-News came to speak to Elon University students on October 6 about her career.

“When you’re dealing with crime, you have to be careful because you’re seen as the enemy,” Rivas said.

Rivas has worked for the Times-News since June of 2004 when she originally started off covering government reporting. She now covers the court trials and crimes that occur in Elon and Gibsonville.

“It’s very different from government reporting…you’re dealing with people; it’s a lot of emotions,” Rivas said. “There’s always something unexpected that can happen in the courtoom.”

Rivas stressed the importance to using proper etiquette when dealing with police.

“Having an attitude is not gonna help you when dealing with cops,” she said. “You have to understand that they’re doing their job so one of the things you have to do is try and understand where they are coming from.”

She informed students that it is crucial to recogize the positions of a police officer. This way the reporter can refer to the police officer by his or her proper title, such as lieutenant or captain. 

Rivas also gave the students advice on what actions to take in the courtoom.

“You need to know where to look, who to ask,” she said. “Know the clerks.”

Rivas reiterated the point of being polite in situations such as the ones she commonly experiences.

“Always introduce yourself to the judges, they appreciate that,” she said.

Rivas also stressed how important it is to not convict someone before they are actually found guilty.

“Don’t convict somebody ahead of time,” she said. She told students how important it is to implement the word “allegedly” in crime reporting.

“You have to keep your mind open,” Rivas said. 

Rivas enjoys her job and gave the students significant advice from her own personal experiences of what she has learned from it.

“You’re gonna get a lot of criticism when you cover courts,” she said. “You have to have thick skin to take that and you have to have compassion too because you’re dealing with people.”

 

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