“There’s a lot of good that is done in the process of being a storyteller,” said Doug Ross.
Ross has worked for 30 years to help Region residents everyday through his work with the NWI Times. He is currently their Senior Reporter covering Porter County government and Michigan City government.
Having worked a variety of journalism jobs since the 1980s, Ross has always stayed local.
“I’ve got family that keeps me here,” Ross said, “but quite frankly, it’s hard to beat Northwest Indiana as a place to live. There’s so much to do that I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
“You cover one story, and a ton of other stories come out of it,” Ross said. He finds this to be true of most stories, from sitting in on local government meetings to covering the darker side of life.
“I like covering the stories that affect people’s lives in a good way,” Ross said, but reflected on a grisly crime he covered early in his career. “You learn to not internalize the bad things. It can be psychologically devastating if you don’t have a way to say, ‘Well, at least I’m telling the story.’”
One of the stories Ross has been covering is that of a La Porte man who faces charges for building bombs and producing and possessing explicit images of children, otherwise known as "innocent images." This is a strange story, as the two crimes are completely unrelated, except that they were allegedly committed by the same man.
Even the order of discovery is unusual, as the man was originally investigated for rigging a car to explode Tony Soprano style. From there police learned that the man was visiting a vacant property, and it was there that they found the man’s solicitations to commit child crimes literally written on the wall.
From there, police were able to arrest the man within two days of discovering the crimes, and that was then they found the homebrew explosives that required help from the Bomb Squad.
“It’s really bizarre,” Ross said, “but the key thing to remember is that it is bizarre, and not something you’re going to see every day.”
That is Ross’ best advice for dealing with bad news. Bad news seems to be everywhere, but bad news is relatively rare, even as it affects each of us at different times in our lives.
“There’s a lot of media criticism by those who don’t like hearing negative news,” Ross said, “but the fact is that you improve lives by sharing information with them, even if that information is bad news. You can help them make better decisions. You might warn them about things that are happening in their government or local construction. All of this knowledge can help people get a better quality of life. We are in the business of improving lives.”
“When we tell stories, we don’t tell it with a point of view,” Ross said. “We tell what other people are saying.”
This is the crux of Ross’ storytelling. While he is technically telling the stories, he’s largely giving others a chance to tell their own stories through his work. As Ross notes, Northwest Indiana is full of stories that beg to be told while these amazing Hoosiers are still here to tell them.
Recently, Ross led a project that aimed to connect with all the Korean War Veterans in the Region. Ross felt that, among our veterans, those who served in the Korean War are often forgotten or overlooked. Their stories need to be told while we still have them.
“It was fascinating to capture those memories,” Ross said after his team interviewed a couple dozen veterans, “In the process we found out that two of the guys we interviewed knew each other and hadn’t seen each other since the war.”
Ross’ team was delighted to reunite the men, “It’s good to see lives improve as a result of your work.”