’48 Hours’ Erin Moriarty talks covering crime, twinning, and why there’s ‘nothing better’ than overturning wrongful convictions
Crime can often hit close to home, but for Erin Moriarty, it even sent deliveries after the “48 Hours” correspondent offered up her address to a serial killer.
She was in hot pursuit of a story on Dennis Rader, known as the BTK Killer.
“He’s an artist. And I met with him, and he had artwork that I wanted to include in my piece because that was an unusual element — no one else had it,” Moriarty recalls. “But he would only send it to my home address. So I gave it to him.”
“Although he is in prison, it was just dumb,” she concedes. But the unorthodox move did give her reporting an artistic boost: “I did get the artwork, and it was in my piece.”
Some career highlights that she’s more proud of, she says, are her longtime efforts to overturn wrongful convictions.
“There’s nothing more gratifying, although they take sometimes years,” the lawyer-turned-journalist says of watching wrongfully convicted people walk out of prison as a result of her work.
“There’s nothing better.”
The host of the true-crime podcast “My Life of Crime” first started with “48 Hours” in 1990. The CBS show recently marked its 35th anniversary — making it the third longest running prime-time news program in history.
“A lot of people wonder, ‘How you could do this year after year?’ But I never focus on the negative or, sometimes, the evil that we encounter. I always focus on the heroics,” says Moriarty, 70.
“What is interesting is in the worst times of people’s lives, whether they are charged with a crime or a victim of crime, it seems to bring out the best of them.”
We wanted to know more about this crime-focused Emmy Award winner, so we asked her to answer these questions.
Grew up in: Columbus, Ohio. I’m a Buckeye. I’ve lived in all the “big C” cities in Ohio: Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.
College attended: Ohio State University for undergraduate and law school.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be: A lawyer, always. Perry Mason. And you know what’s interesting, on one of the Supreme Court justices, Elena Kagan, same thing. Perry Mason changed our lives and really put us on a path toward a career. She is a little higher level, but we both became lawyers because of Perry Mason.
Favorite hobby: I love to spin or bike. I do [the language education app] Duolingo French and I have to tell you, I love it. You cannot miss a day. I now have [a] 1,058 days’ streak going.
I just I love the language. It’s almost like meditation when you do Duolingo. Everyone who does it, you become addicted and that’s all you’re thinking about for that 20 minutes, half an hour, that you do it every morning. It’s just a great escape, and you’re always learning something.
What would happen if you ruin your Duolingo streak?: Well, because I’m OCD, it would set me in a spin. I cannot miss. I cannot. You have to be a little OCD to do our job. They’re a lot of facts you need to know, everything has to be absolutely correct. And so a person who is Type A and kind of obsessed with details is perfect for the job, but it does not help you in your personal life when you don’t want to miss a day of Duolingo.
Favorite movie: “Casablanca” and “When Harry Met Sally.” I loved the latest “Mission: Impossible.”
I have a fear of: Saying “I can’t do it.” I believe that if I at one point say “Oh, I can’t do that,” then it gets easier to say. So I have a fear of ever saying “I can’t do that.”
Biggest accomplishment: Working on wrongful convictions. I have watched 12 individuals walk out of prison during my career, and that is what I’m most proud of. You know how they always say when you’re on your deathbed no one thinks about work, they think about their life? I will think about that. I am most proud of that.
New Year’s resolution: To have more patience. Just more patience with everybody, with the world. Since the pandemic, you know, it’s been very tough on people. I think people are a little touchier; it’s harder on people. Not to always be in a rush helps you as a reporter.
Hidden talents: None. That’s probably why I work so hard. I don’t have any. I can’t sing. Definitely don’t have any hidden talents. So I just tried to work to make up for lack of talent.
Something few people know about me: Not everyone knows I’m a twin. And they’re always surprised when they hear I’m a twin because that’s a very big part of my life. [Fraternal twin sister Sheelah] is my best friend, and I always felt I was blessed to just be given a best friend at birth and to be able to hold her all this time.
Best advice given: When you’re working on a story and you have a little red light go off, never ignore it. There’s a problem — and stop and see what it is. And that’s really a journalism lesson. Anytime you have some doubts, don’t brush them. You listen, because especially when you’ve been doing it a while, pay attention [to] that red light and then stop and see what you might be getting wrong. That I think is the best advice — that’s the one I use every day of my life.
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