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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    My Life As… an Investigative Reporter

    Imagine you’re a journalist investigating the wrongful conviction of two men, who spent 14 years in prison for a crime they did not commit.

    That is exactly what Dan Slepian, an award-winning investigative producer from NBC News’s Dateline discussed during this semester’s first installment of the “My Life As?” series, presented by the School of Journalism.

    Slepian spoke to an auditorium full of students and faculty Monday evening alongside retired homicide detective Bobby Addolorato.

    After graduating Stony Brook University in 1992, Slepian made his way to NBC in 1996, where he worked as a producer. After wanting to be involved with politics, he found journalism to be an interesting way of involving himself with the criminal justice system.

    He spoke of how his fascination led him to using a new trend at the time, small hand-held cameras to document investigations while working with the Las Vegas Police Department. In 2002, he pitched the same type of documenting of investigations to the New York City Police Department.

    “A light bulb went into my head and I thought there is a story here,” said Slepian, referring to his new beat in the gritty South Bronx Homicide Task Force. When he met former detective Addolorato, he learned of the wrongful imprisonment case because it had been one of great concern and had left him restless.

    The case was that of a murder that occurred at Palladium Nightclub in Manhattan, where a bouncer was murdered. David Lemus and Olmedo Hidalgo were convicted in 1992 and spent 13 years in prison after their conviction.

    During this time Slepian spoke of how he found himself visiting them in prison everyday.

    “How do journalists tell a story as they become part of a story?” he asked the audience. “Can you be an advocate as you become a journalist?”

    As Slepian described how difficult it was not to put your own personal feelings into his reporting, Addolorato interrupted — “Your worst nightmares came true in this case,” he said.

    Addolorato explained that for 10 years, since the two men were imprisoned, he and his partner had gone to the district attorney’s office with a case that contained no evidence that the men were guilty of any crime, but evidence that proved two other men were involved and a confession to the murder.

    They were constantly denied any hearing or meeting with the district attorney’s office.

    After Slepian’s “Dateline” broadcast of an hour-long investigation aired on television, lawyers were able to make a case for the two convicted men with new evidence, and the charges were dropped in 2005.

    Slepian’s investigative journalism and curiosity shined a light on some of the corruption in the New York City criminal justice system and encouraged students that journalism is not a languish career path.

    “Any one of you could have done this: Passion, curiosity, and drive, it’s never been easier when you have the tools right there,” Slepian said.

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