Friday, March 13, 2009

Table Talk

by Jenna Jackson

I look better on paper.

I just do. I figured that out when a good friend of mine asked me to speak at a recent Table Talk evening for the University of Houston. This was a huge event–about 500 people, mostly women–and she wanted me to be a part of it. I was honored.

But, I told her then, I look better on paper. It sounds really cool to work for 48 Hours, but most of the time, when I show up somewhere, people ask me for ID because I don’t exactly look the part.

She laughed and ignored me, so I said sure I’d do it. All it consisted of was talking to the ten people at my particular table. It was very informal and easy.

I was completely relaxed. Until she told me, a week or so before the event, that I had been assigned the table who bid the highest donation in the entire event. They picked me, she said. I reminded her AGAIN, and this time vehemently, I’m much better on paper!

She again ignored me, and today I went to speak to this table. Once I arrived and saw how many people surrounded us–and how incredible and intelligent my tablemates were–I repeated to them my mantra: "I’m much better on paper. Hope I’m not a disappointment!"

Turns out I was the one with the lesson to learn. I should have known it from the incredible ratings CSI–and even 48 Hours these days–have garnered on a regular basis. People love what I do for a living. They love what we, as a blog, do for a living. People are riveted to crime stories, especially true ones.

These women at my table were smart, lively, charismatic. And curious. They were completely curious about what I do every day–how I get people to talk to me, whether I’m ever scared, whether I believe them. I told them stories about people who I'd met over the years that I didn't even remember.

It was refreshing to me. And having to explain to them why I do what I do on a daily basis made me believe in it all over again. As depressing as it can sometimes be to speak to people who are going through their toughest times, it is also inspiring. These people are courageous. They choose to keep moving and pushing forward, despite the fact that they lost a loved one–or that their loved one is accused of something unthinkable.

In each crime we cover at 48 Hours, each family is a victim. The actual murder victim’s family, clearly, has lost someone beloved to them. I do not know how people survive this and have the strength to move forward. This can never be replaced or understood. And the killer’s family–almost without fail–is shocked, saddened and (many times) in disbelief about the act/s their loved one is accused of committing.

The thing that I learn day after day is that nothing is black and white; almost no one is good or evil. Everything is gray.

And, today, at this luncheon for a very good cause–the University of Houston’s Friends of Women’s Studies–I was reminded of how important it is to know and understand and appreciate human nature and all that goes along with it.


Anonymous said...

Jenna, it is wonderful that you have chosen a career you love. You are an inspiration to all women.

andy kahan said...


You truly under estimate yourself as all the great ones usually do.

Looking Good on Paper-Like That
Keep up your passion for bringing truly enlightening crime story's to light.

Unknown said...

I have been researching a 27 year old unresolved murder. The current investigator has said it is the most baffling thing he has ever seen. Theories have ranged from the Zodiac killer to a mafia hit man that dumped bodies at sea. There was invovlement out of the corrupt Boston FBI office during the time of John Connolly, and there is a known CIA connection. A young woman was murdered and authorities are still covering up. If I hadn't seen actual documents and know these cases so well, I might think it is some frightening script, but the case is very real. How do I get the attention to get this opened up?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny how we never see ourselves as others do and how t o ourselves we're "not all that much really" until someone else shows us how much better we are than we think? I don't think it's a case of low self worth but rather just only knowing the life we know & it seeming "regular" where to someone else they are thinking "wow!" All a matter of perspective...

I wish I could shine more of a light on a missing child I've been trying to help call attention to. Jaliek Rainwalker has been missing over a year now & yet was finally just featured on a CNN online video program It would be great to get some exposure on it and what a story with all these kids going missing, it's like every time we turn on the TV another is gone....