At the IRE Conference in Philadelphia, 2015 Knight Scholar Amber Johnson talked with attendee Jo Ciavaglia, a crime reporter for the Bucks County Courier Times in Levittown, Pennsylvania. The following Q&A has been edited for clarity.
Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?
A: I’m a crime reporter! My favorite part of my job is when I get to do investigations and the daily grind of going to fires and bank robberies and fires and bank robberies…we have a lot of bank robberies.
Q: So how did you get involved in crime reporting?
A: I was forced into it. I was a health reporter for eight years and I loved to go see surgeries. Then our crime reporter left. About three years ago my manager said they weren’t going to replace the crime reporter, so I had to step up and do the job.
Q: So tell me how IRE has helped you with this transition.
A: Well, this is the second conference that I have attended. I attended my first one when I was probably your age and I’ll tell you that I’ve been feeling a little bit beat up and beat down, but I feel absolutely renewed after these past four days. I was actually surprised that they gave me the four days because I’m a police reporter, and I feel that I can use this information for a project I’m working on.
Q: Do you feel as if the information you’ve received here has given you some clarity on how to go about finishing up the project?
A: Yes! I’m working on a really big fraud story and I feel that I now have so many directions that I can go in to finish it up. Even though I’m exhausted because I’ve been taking the 6 a.m. train everyday to get here, I can honestly say that I’m excited to go to work tomorrow.
Q: Describe yourself with one word and tell me why you chose that word.
A: One word? I’m Italian! But “tenacious,” because over my 27 years as a journalist I’ve been told that I’m a bulldog. When I get ahold of something I don’t let go, and I think that’s a nice way to say bulldog.
Amber Johnson is a 2015 IRE Conference Knight Scholar and a rising sophomore at Spelman College studying political science. She is the business manager of the Maroon Tiger Student Media Group for the 2015-2016 school year. Her interests include investigative reporting with a focus on the juvenile justice system the school-to-prison pipeline.