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A Window To Executions: How To Cover Death For A Living

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Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.

As a criminal justice reporter for The Associated Press, Michael Graczyk has covered hundreds of executions of death row inmates in the state of Texas. This means, of course, that he must be there to witness those deaths.

This past week, after an execution in Oklahoma went terribly wrong, many people turned their attention again to capital punishment — and to the reporters who cover it. Graczyk is no stranger to botched executions himself, having witnessed at least two in his time reporting.

There are peculiar difficulties that come with covering such grim events for his livelihood.

One of the challenges: Despite viewing so many executions, Graczyk tries to maintain a sense of his responsibilities as a witness to the death of another individual.

"You have to be careful," he says. "You don't want to get into a formula. You want to make it a story that people want to read, either for the record or for the sake of it being an interesting case."

And still, even in the trying moment, he must remember his faculties as a reporter. "As [with] most people who write news stories, you're dealing with time and space considerations, and you want to be careful that you don't miss anything."

Matter-of-factly, he notes: "It can be very challenging at times."

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