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.

**UPDATE**
 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.

26 comments:

  1. Defend it if you must.
    But continue to pursue this story without hesitation and with the vigorous passion you have.
    Remember you're trying to do some -good- here. Your intentions are noble and all the haters and disinformation artists intentions are NOT. The story of Maura Murray like many other missing persons had slipped away to coldness. Youre at the very least keeping the search alive for information on this story. You are to be commended!

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  2. If he has nothing to hide and it's not Maura then why has he worked many years to keep the families identities hidden? I'd like to know what and who he was keeping their identity safe from? It just seems odd to me to call and make a statement like that.

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    1. Indeed. Stating the obvious, the nature of this bizarre threat leaves this reader even less convinced that there is "nothing to see here." What a clustercuss. . . . Oh, well. Carry on.

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    2. Eh, I don't know. Some people are just paranoid in general. My sister regularly Googles herself and deletes anything that shows up with her name on it. She freaks out if I post anything even remotely personal on Facebook. This guy could just be overly paranoid and raised his children to be as such. Probably a neo-survivalist, tin-foil hat wearing, conspiracy theorist.

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  3. I'm has libertarian as they come, but I think 100% correct. There's no way to have absolute privacy in today's world. If you make a Facebook, Instagram, or twitter account, you automatically forfeit some privacy. That being said, his phone call is qute disturbing. I don't grasp his motives, unless somehow, there's more to this. Time will tell. Good luck, James!

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    1. Well said Hans. To me, this astonishingly childish reaction (see more of my thoughts on it below) keeps alive some sliver of possibility that this clan may be despite whatever proofs have been tendered indeed be connected to the case.

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  4. Logic of call from man - civil discord related to lack of privacy issues is a threat to children, namely my children ... so I will foment civil discord by threatening other children.

    One does not have to be a genius to understand that (a) increasing discord and fear in the world generally, in self-righteous and overly self-involved acting out hurts everyone including you and the ones you claim to love, and (b) there was nothing about this situation even slightly threatening to anyone in their clan, at least not until they made fools of themselves by how they handled it.

    Moreover, in my opinion only but an educated one, personality disorders and mental illness in many cases are a like asthma, in one particular sense. Studies looking at geographic, socioeconomic, ecological, air quality and other variables in relation to the likelihood of suffering from asthma suggest to some leading scholars in the area that either under or over exposure to "dirty air" throws the throat and lungs out of whack in terms of being able to differentiate that which should cause explusive reaction involved in an asthma attack.

    The similarity to mental disorders - again, just in my personal view strictly, but one informed by A LOT of reading on the topic - is that both overly protective and negligent attitudes of care givers toward risks and realities of life creative out of whack senses of security in the world, leading to disordered personalities. So, hey patriarch big man hero of the family, fighting his whole life to protect his family's privacy (how very grandiose sir!), way to be a patriarch of civil discord, mental illness, callousness toward a really sad missing persons case, and in general standing up tall in this case as a total ____ (choose your own term.)

    ~ John Green

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  5. What bothers me the most about this threatening call, is how respective you have actually been...You could have been an A hole and put their names and posted their Facebook URL, but you did not. No one except you, the LE, and whoever else you told knows anything else about their identities than we did 2 weeks ago. I hate they are treating you like this.

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  6. James,

    I hope you reported the threat to your local police and the police where those people live.

    New Englanders are weirdos. Midwesterners would not react that way.


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    1. Well, good for you. At least you're not stooping to stereotyping.

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    2. Hey! New Englanders may be assholes, but we aren't weirdos!

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    3. No question New Englanders generally value their privacy very highly, rcoopr. Rather than being dismissive of that trait, why not take it into account and deal with them accordingly? If If your investigation took you to a place where people spoke a different language would you denigrate them as "weirdos" or find a translator? Which do you think would lead to more/better information?

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    4. Well said Jack.I lived in 3 different countries in my lifetime (in Canada for 11), but in Haverhill NH the last 16 yrs.and I consider myself a New Englander. And I take great offense to the statement that New Englanders are "weirdos" the same way that I took offense when Fred stated that a "local dirtbag" took MM away. I live very close to the spot where Maura was seen last. Despite the fact that I must be a "weirdo" or a "local dirtbag" I would have and done what I myself could do in this case. Not because I am a "weirdo" but because people who have invested emotional investment to this case deserve closure even if MM decided to start a new life for herself. And I do hope James that you are still committed to publish your book in the near future and prevail.

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    5. I prefer the term "Masshole", thankyouverymuch.

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  7. Wow. You can't get much lower than to threaten someone's children! Some people lack the ability to discern more practical ways of dealing with problems and just make things worse. What a shame. And how odd that he has been working very hard to keep his family's privacy in the first place.....facebook sure isn't the place for that!

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  8. Oh, by the way, "fear-driven" is a political leaning description used by Mr. Renner. I think we all know James' politics are complete garbage; I'd appreciate if you wouldn't inject your Marxism into this blog-I've read your tweets and Facebook posts. Many people, like my parents and my family, who lived their lives in a country who had an intrusive, repressive government, actual like privacy and cherish it. One can't make such broad sweeping statements unless you've experienced it first hand, James. Learning through educators, books, and idea exchanges in the faculty lounge at the university you teach at is vastly different than living a nightmare. I've heard the accounts, seen the photos, and watch my dad become paralyzed with emotion when discussing such matters. I understand and agree that 100% privacy is unrealistic in today's world, by it's not always feast driven....some people actually value privacy...leftist politics aside.

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  9. All this talk about privacy is totally off base. James pointed to a person who ALREADY POSTED THEIR PICTURE AND NAME ON A SOCIAL MEDIA SITE. I assume the reason she did so was for advertising to benefit herself or her spa. If James had said ' hey everyone I got an awesome haircut and facial at this place " and it generated 10k hits to the site and increased business for the spa by 30% they would be thanking him right now, not threatening him. The father should start by lecturing his children for not protecting the privacy he worked so hard for. That's the chance you take when you knowingly and willingly post your name and picture for all to see.

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    1. And further, the Maura look-alike should only take issue with her friend who posted her picture, not James. James and others did nothing illegal to gain any of this information, it was all there, in the public domain, for anyone to find.

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    2. You're right Bill. Her father should be threatening the person who defied his lifelong struggle to keep his children's identities from being revealed by posting his daughter's picture ... namely, his other daughter.

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  11. Threatening someone's children IS a crime and it should be treated as such. Well said by others, they only bring further attentions to themselves.In a way, this is the same thing that Fred Murray operated the last 10 years: Pleeeaaase help my to find my poor daughter but don't you dare ask any questions from anyone who knew her.

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