I was really proud of myself this week. While one of our reporters was on vacation, I had to step outside of myself and cover a subject I usually don't cover -- crime.
Most of the time, my job consists of covering politics, and any news that comes out of the various county and city governments. Unless one politician drop kicks another, or seconds a motion with a pair of brass knuckles, crime doesn't usually fall onto my plate.
But, this week it did.
Last Monday, at 6:30 a.m., in the morning, the Clayton County Police raided an alleged big-time drug dealer's house and his reported stash houses, seizing more than a $1 million in marijuana, cocaine, heroin, weapons, and a whole bunch of other stuff most people don't really need.
At the press conference, when the police revealed what they recovered, it was pretty amazing -- at least to me. In my life, I've never even smoked a cigarette, and the last time I saw a gram of cocaine was in fifth-grade D.A.R.E. (Drug Abusive Resistance Education) class, so seeing a small mountain of marijuana and other drugs was a little disorienting.
After getting over the overpowering smell, my second thought was, "Wow, you could actually smoke all of that." My next, more sobering thought was that these drugs would have been smoked, or consumed in some way, if not for the raid.
A lot of people complain about the fact that the media covers crime, but this week, I've learned that crime stories tell you more about your community, and the nature of humanity, than any other subject.
In the last week, I covered some depressing stories and came across many more reports of people being victimized, robbed, or permanently injured. I was surprised to read so many reports of teens whose lives have gone astray because of negative influences.
However, I also covered stories that reaffirmed my faith in people.
I watch news reports all the time about the "bystander affect," in which people see something bad happening, but do nothing about it. A paid actor posing as a lost child, or an abducted teen will cry for help to no avail.
This week, however, I got to talk to a man who risked his own life, to help pull a sheriff's deputy out of a burning car after it crashed on the highway. He could have driven by and let the authorities handle it, but who knows what would have happened to the deputy.
Stories like that tell me that with as much greed, envy, lust, and hate as there is in the world, there are still reasons to believe in the potential for good that we all possess.
Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org