Sunday, December 15, 2013
Final Thoughts on This Week **UPDATED**
What a clustercuss, as Mr. Fox would say.
That being said, I would probably do everything the same if faced with such a situation again.
Like it or not, the era of privacy is over. And, personally, I don't agree with the fear-driven need for absolute privacy, anyway. Never have. That's why I knocked on J.D. Salinger's door a few years ago.
We live during a time when reporting is being supplemented by citizens. The Boston bombings showed how these stories will work in the future. These cases can and will be solved via Reddit or personal blogs or other websites that can serve as lightning rods for specific stories.
In journalism, we have this thing called the Writer's Den. It's where reporters can come together and shoot theories off each other, using each other's wisdom, combining their intellect to suss out a story. All that has happened is that Writer's Den has moved from inside the newsroom to the public forum. Instead of being fearful or angry about this, we should learn to accept it. Accept the fallibility of it. It's a way to get at information. In the end, the account in the newspaper, or the book, should still be held to high standards but don't be fearful of public discourse.
I believe we acted appropriately. We had a lead in a 10-year-old cold case that has few leads. A woman was connected by Maura's social security number. Her friend looked shockingly like Maura. When we asked about the similarities, this friend chose to act fearful instead of simply responding, "Hey, my name is Jane Smith, I'm not Maura, silly." I sent the lead to police. No member of law enforcement said, "Hey, dude, take it down." Everyone saw the weird similarities between Maura and this woman. When she shut down her Facebook profile and her husband put up threatening pictures, I realized we had reached a point where authorities should figure out what was going on and if anyone was in danger. I called the Hanson police. Spoke to a nice Sgt. there who decided to get a definitive answer at 2 in the morning. He called me back with the answer: it wasn't her. And he thanked me before he ended the call. Also, we never revealed her name.
I believe in this kind of journalism. Love it or hate it, it gets results (this blog was viewed 14,000 times in one day last week--many more people have learned about Maura's case because of it.) So I will defend this method of reporting, vigorously. And loudly.
I just received a call from a man who identified himself as a father of the woman's family. He said he worked many years to make sure his family's identities were never revealed. He called me at home and threatened my children. I don't know what to make of it other than to say, no matter how bizarre these people act, the woman in question is NOT Maura Murray. There are weirdos everywhere.