Column

Prokop: Here's how we cover breaking news stories

Hannah Prokop
Hannah Prokop

I asked for your questions about journalism and received some great responses. 

One reader asked how many stories it takes to fill the paper each day – the short answer is it varies depending on the size of the paper – and another asked how we choose what stories to cover – I plan on delving into this one in a future column.

Thanks to all who reached out, and please continue to send questions on how we cover news at the Northwest Herald.

Last week, we had a couple breaking news stories pop up that had some readers wondering why there wasn’t more to the story. When it comes to breaking news, stories are always evolving, and we’re always adding more information as we get it. 

After we received a tip Feb. 4 about an Illinois State Police trooper being arrested in connection with driving under the influence in Crystal Lake, our courts reporter, Katie Smith, called Crystal Lake police and searched the McHenry County court document system to see whether we could confirm the story. 

Katie then spoke with Crystal Lake Deputy Police Chief Derek Hyrkas and wrote a story about 49-year-old Matthew Konie being charged with DUI.

Although we published one story on Konie, we’re planning to write more as we gather more details on his case. Some of the questions Katie asked police – including whether Konie was in an unmarked ISP vehicle at the time of his arrest and what circumstances led to his arrest – were not immediately answered. 

We’ve also filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the police report associated with Konie’s arrest. According to Illinois law, government bodies have five business days to respond to FOIA requests, so obtaining the documents take time.

Another example was on Friday night, when police were called to a home with an “intoxicated subject” and later arrested Garrett C. Kowalczyk after shutting down the neighborhood for nearly six hours.

We received a tip Friday that there was a heavy police presence in the area around Harvest Gate and Polaris Drive in Lake in the Hills. Shortly after that, Lake in the Hills police sent out a Nixle alert warning the public to avoid the area. (To sign up for Nixle alerts, visit http://www.nixle.com. Police use them to alert anyone who signs up about anything from police activity to traffic crashes to water main breaks.)

We immediately sent a reporter and a photographer to the scene, and had another reporter start making calls to police. It wasn't until about 10:30p.m. Friday that we received a second Nixle alert from police saying that the scene was clear – and it wasn't until after 11 p.m. on Friday that Lake in the Hills police responded to a reporter's questions about what happened.

After asking police Monday for more details about the incident, a news release sent at 4 p.m. from Lake in the Hills police shed some light on the situation, but we still have questions.

Just like the Konie story, we're still pushing for information on Kowalczyk's arrest, and we will write follow-up stories as soon as we know more.

While we have five reporters and a photo editor who do a great job of being our eyes and ears in the county, we can't be everywhere at once. If you see breaking news when it happens, take a photo and send it to us at copydesk@nwherald.com or message us on Facebook.

• Hannah Prokop is the Northwest Herald’s city editor. She can be reached at 815-526-4616 or hprokop@shawmedia.com.

Editor's note: This column has been updated to reflect when Lake in the Hills police first responded to a Northwest Herald reporter's request for comment.

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