‘People who live here are hurt’

Former Spotlight editors deep in the trenches of city rallies

Staff report

The photos I have taken are photos I grew up seeing in war zones, not at the exact spot I learned to parallel park.

— BD Grad Lauren Chapman

Breanna Cooper and Lauren Chapman are lifelong Indianapolis residents — westsiders at that.

They are both hurting this week as they watch firsthand the developments of what is occurring in downtown Indianapolis following the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white police officer.

“It hurts to see a city I grew up in pain like this,” Cooper said. “People who live here are hurt.”

As a reporter for the Indianapolis Recorder, Cooper has gotten a firsthand look at the problems downtown. She worked three hours in the middle of the protests Friday night, was downtown for almost seven hours Saturday and spent another three hours downtown Sunday.

“It has been a good experience as a journalist,” Cooper said. “I had my first experience being pepper-sprayed and that wasn’t fun, but I have learned a lot on how to report on things.”

Cooper just started at the Recorder in December and has covered the Covid-19 pandemic and now the city’s first rallies turned protests in almost 60 years.

“My editor says it is baptism by fire and that’s true,” Cooper said. 

Cooper is impressed by the level of cooperation by the local media covering these downtown rallies.

“There aren’t any scoops and everyone is concerned with getting things right,” Cooper said, “It is impressive watching the local media look out for each other and protect each other. We are in this together.”

Chapman has been covering local news for WFYI for four years.

“It is hard to imagine this is happening in my city,” Chapman said.

Chapman also has seen a tremendous amount of cooperation among local media.

“I couldn’t breathe yesterday because of the amount of tear gas,” she said. “Two reporters from the Indianapolis Star gave me wipes and helped me walk out of an intersection because I couldn’t see.”

Chapman says she has been tear gassed six times in the past three days and as a young reporter who grew up 10 minutes from downtown, she understands why this is happening.

“It is very much indicatie to me of concerns that have been going on in Indianapolis for years,” Chapman said. “People are angry and this is an outlet for them. As a young Indianapolis resident I very much understand why this is happening.”  

    Chapman graduated from Ben Davis in 2011 and Cooper in 2014, Both were finalists for Indiana student journalist of the year their senior years and both are enjoying covering the city they love. Both were also editors of the Spotlight their senior year.

Despite her understanding of the events, Chapman also finds it hard to believe what she is seeing.

“The photos I have taken are photos I grew up seeing in war zones, not at the exact spot I learned to parallel park,” Chapman said.

That’s the life of a journalist.