Welcome to the second half of my interview with Carter Ross, investigative journalists and protagonist in Brad Parks‘ latest novel, EYES OF THE INNOCENT. In addition to containing excellent insight into the mind of a reporter, the below gives a quick preview of Carter’s humor and humanity, as well as his deeply ethical approach to journalism.
In breaking news, Carter has made it to the Elite Eight in the World’s Favorite Amateur Sleuth Competition. His opponent in this round is Flavia de Luce, and while she’s only 12, she is a formidable opponent indeed.
When asked for comment on this round of voting, Carter said:
Sure, I love Flavia de Luce. Who doesn’t? But I also love a good story. And what would be better than the unlikely ascendance of a guy like me — a stiff, WASPy, hopelessly ink-stained, romantically challenged journalist stuck in a dying industry — into the Final Four of the World’s Greatest Amateur Sleuth Competition? It’d be a victory for underdogs everywhere.
This round is open for voting until midnight ET on Tuesday, March 29 so please VOTE NOW.
And now, the rest of the interview…
Was being a reporter your first-choice career? If not, what was? If so, did you have a backup choice?
When I was a kid, I either wanted to be Superman or Darth Vader when I grew up. Then I discovered being a reporter was the closest I could come to combining the two.
We all know the pen is mightier than the sword, but if you had to wield a weapon, would you choose a knife, a gun, or a hammer?
I know a lot of fictional protagonists out there are keen on physical confrontation, and I delight when Jack Reacher beats the hell out of some punk as much as the next guy. It’s just not me. I’m a newspaper reporter, okay? The only thing that makes me tough is having several thousand tons of ink and newsprint waiting to immortalize what I write. But I don’t think that would help me much in a fight. So, to answer your question, I would say: The hammer, but only because it would be the easiest thing to drop before I ran away.
As an investigative reporter, you deal with some dark subjects. Yet you maintain a keen sense of humor and an abiding wit. How do you manage to not be terribly depressed all the time?
Actually, I do get depressed sometimes. If you spend the day interviewing folks who live in tenements where the heat doesn’t work and there’s raw sewage in the basement and you don’t get depressed, there’s something wrong with you. I come home from days like that feeling utterly drained. But you know what? I have to get over it. I work for a daily newspaper. There’s always a new edition to put out tomorrow, a new story to tell. Besides, have you ever been in a newsroom when some disaster strikes? You can literally start a timer when the news breaks, and I guarantee you it won’t crack 10 minutes before someone makes a joke. Sure, it’s a defense mechanism. But I think it’s very human, because people who deal in the bad news business – cops, EMT’s, firefighters, nurses, whomever – all say the same thing: You either have to laugh it off or cry it off, and most of the time laughing is better for your health.
PR people tell their clients that nothing is ever off the record. But you take protecting your sources seriously. Have you ever been told something “off the record” that you did use in the paper?
Never, ever, not once. Wait, can I be more explicit? Let’s try: No. As I alluded to earlier, I don’t have weapons. Just my integrity – it’s my knife, hammer, gun and fusion-powered ionizer all wrapped into one. The moment I lose that, I might as well go into P…. uh, I mean, I might as well go sell apples on the corner. Now, have I taken something off the record, gotten it confirmed by two other sources, then put it in the paper? Of course. That’s fair game. But there’s no way I’m burning that OTR source to do it. And while you didn’t ask this, I still feel I should say: Yes, I would go to jail to protect a source. (Though, for the record, I would sure as heck hope the source would visit me and slip me a cake with a file in it, because I don’t really want to stay there forever).
As a cub reporter, did you have a hero? Did you ever get to meet him or her?
I’ve never met him, but I do have a tiny shrine to Bob Woodward in my house. It’s very discreet and tasteful – just a few candles, some tiny statuettes, a framed copy of an All the President’s Men movie poster and a lock of his hair I bought off eBay. Just kidding. About the statuettes, that is. They’re really quite large.