Interview with Milton Valencia, Boston Globe reporter

Published 11 months ago -

By Caleb White, Online Editor

On March 4, 2015, Boston Globe Metro reporter Milton Valencia began covering the death penalty trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the highest-profile case of his career.

Valencia, who was then covering stories in the federal court system, immersed himself in the ins-and-outs of Tsarnaev’s trial, one of the two suspects involved in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. During preparation for the trial he had been interviewed by NPR about the jury process and concerns of impartiality. He also covered a related trial on Tsarnaev’s friend, who was charged with giving false witness to authorities. “We all see the high-stakes TV shows about lawyering. This I saw up close and personal,” he said. 

On the first day of the trial, he sat 10 feet away from Tsarnaev, taking notes and posting live updates on Twitter. “Jurors look to Tsarnaev to see if he looks when victims address him. He does not,” one tweet read. When the video of the bombing was played, Valencia tweeted again: “Tsarnaev seems most engaged he has in this trial. Perking up to see video.”

Although Valencia was well-composed throughout the court case, his experience during the hearings was occasionally a struggle of emotion. “I wanted to be that neutral, stoic reporter I could be. My job was getting a full accounting of the law,” he said. “But there was a day when the autopsy results (for Martin Richard) were released. It really got into the horrible nature of it. And the emotion got to me. This was a person who was five feet away from this young child and did this.”

His journalism experience with the bombing wasn’t limited to the trial — two years prior, he had been actively reporting when the attack occurred. During that week, Valencia described his feelings as an adrenaline rush. “I remember driving at five in the morning on the night of (the Watertown shootout). No one’s on the street. I’d driven probably the fastest I’ve driven in Boston, ever.” 

Some of the reports he contributed to made their way into national headlines: “Chaos erupts in Cambridge and Watertown after MIT officer is gunned down.” After Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was finally apprehended, another one read: “Second Marathon bombing suspect captured after all-day hunt that brought Boston area to standstill; alleged accomplice dead.”

Valencia’s reporting work, along with the work of his colleagues, led to the staff of the Boston Globe receiving the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Reporting. Valencia doesn’t put as much emphasis in the accolades as he does on the principles of his career, however. “I’m always in journalism-mode, but the best journalists make some of the best people. They have big hearts, they want to know how people, how the community are affected. We do it ‘cause we care.”

Looking back on his career, Valencia found it surprising how much he’d developed since being a 13-year-old paperboy for the Herald News. “When I was young, who would’ve thought I’d end up covering a death penalty trial involving a terrorist?” 

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