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Crime shares a story: Jorge Valencia

From the 4-foot cubical to a crime scene, it’s not a typical 9-to-5 career.

For Jorge Valencia, 27, it’s another day of exciting reporting. As The Roanoke Times’ primary dayside police reporter, he has covered many crimes that occur in or around Roanoke, including stories that range from the murder of a former Roanoke police officer to a pet ferret lost in the mail.

He said he got into a lot of music, like rock and roll around age 13, so with a new interest in music, he knew a career in media was a must.

Growing up in Maryland, he always knew he wanted to go other places, meet new people and explore, so he sought out journalism. Valencia said that his job gives him a license to talk to people about what they do and share it with others. He gets to see firsthand what people want to share.

Jorge Valencia. Photo by Creative Commons.

After being accepted to the University of Maryland, Valencia joined the entertainment section of the school newspaper, The Diamondback.

“I initially wanted to do media, so I did entertainment,” he said.

Before landing a spot at The Roanoke Times, Valencia interned with many newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, The Baltimore Sun, The Miami Herald and The Akron Beacon Journal.

While he originally set out to write about media and entertainment, Valencia fell into crime reporting. He has been at The Roanoke Times for three years and has spent the last three months in the position.

From his third-floor cubical equipped with a pocket law dictionary, domestic violence handbooks, crime statistics books and Roy Peter Clark books, Valencia dedicates 40-50 hours to research, reporting, writing and exploring new ideas out in the field. Once a week, he contributes about five hours to working with local high school teens to coordinate a page called The Edge.

Reporting crime can be an emotional and challenging experience.

“There are a few challenges that I’m constantly working to overcome,” he said.

These particular obstacles are not to vilify certain areas as stereotypical and to not let the crisis of others affect him deeply.

Valencia uses music and running as a coping mechanism to deal with crisis.

“If one doesn’t have a way to deal with these emotions, it can affect the report directly because you’re regularly talking to people in crisis,” he said.

Keeping up with current music, meeting new people and hanging out with friends are a few interests he has outside of reporting.

Crime reporting is a process that can last a great deal of time, with cases lasting from anywhere between several days to several years. Valencia’s advice to aspiring journalists is to establish connections and relationships, such as joining a journalism conference or network in which you will come in contact with potential employers. This will give them a chance to gain knowledge from these employers in order to hone their technique for future employment opportunities.

When preparing for a story, Valencia said journalists should go in with an idea of a story on the particular subject at hand. When he prepares for a story, he goes in with open expectations doesn’t set a guideline on what the story will be about. He takes along his notebook and phone for pictures.

The most important thing for journalism students to look out for is that “people aren’t always going to like you; if you’re good at what you do, you’re not going to be very popular. Sometimes the hours will be long and news might happen when you’re not planning to be at work. The pay’s not amazing, but it’s a fun and gratifying job,” he said.

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