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Adversity can often bring adversaries together - Odessa American: Kenbrodnax

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Adversity can often bring adversaries together

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Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 12:00 am

Cops and newspaper reporters often find themselves on opposite ends of situations.

The officers have one goal, to satisfy the legal aspects, and writers have another, to get as many details as possible to pass along to the reading public.

Invariably, the two aims run headlong into each other.

So the law enforcement people get annoyed at the questions and intrusion. They quit talking. Writers get mad because they can’t get any information.

All of this sounds like a menu for everlasting animosity.

But the truth of the matter is that in a strange way these two very different groups of people need each other. Police know that newspapers can help get crucial information out to a wide audience and sometimes help bring resolutions to crimes. And reporters understand that they need officers to give them the information and quotes that make for good stories.

So they come to tolerate each other, and even have empathy for the other groups’ lot in life. They’re all underpaid. The accomplished members of each profession balance their own challenges against the goals of the other side and a kinship somehow develops.

Plus they’re both dealing with some of the seamier aspects of life and, as a result, tend to insulate themselves with a hard mental shell and even a gruesome sense of humor. Members of these two callings want to appear as tough as nails, even when they’re soft and gooey when it comes to true emotions.

But when the unthinkable happens, as it did last Saturday evening when three Odessa police officers were gunned down on a “routine” call, all the rules change.

The sense of detachment that newspaper writers and editors have while covering the “big” stories was suddenly removed. The fallen lawmen, despite having been in adversarial roles with the newspaper at times, also had been allies. On occasion, they had taken the time while doing their jobs to take pity on reporters who desperately needed information to satisfy their bosses.

So it wasn’t just faceless people who had fallen victim to a despicable crime. These were members of an odd and indefinable fraternity.

Just as the victims’ fellow police officers had to keep doing their job with heavy hearts, the folks at the Odessa American felt an obligation to do the best possible job covering an awful part of the community’s history.

Objectivity aside, we all wanted to fashion articles that paid tribute to these officers’ contributions and unique personalities.

We wanted to capture just how the entire town felt the sense of loss.

No one at the OA ever claimed to be able to understand how the fallen officers’ colleagues were dealing with the deaths. But in a small way, we felt some of the same grief because we had shared the mean streets with them.

Odessa, TX

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