Monday, November 13, 2006

There's a killer on the road

There’s nothing like running a front page article about a mysteriously blood-splattered trailer in Milton with all the markings of a homicide on Saturday, only to clam up about the incident the next day. It’s sort of like getting hooked into a good Agatha Christie novel at the local library only to realize too late that some rude bastard has tore out the last three chapters.

Such was the case during this weekend’s bang-up coverage by The Saratogian, which has again provided a text-book example of bad journalism. Saturday’s rag contained a prominent front-page article with photos that described how dozens of cops from the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department and the state police descended upon the Saratoga West trailer park in Milton Thursday evening and proceeded to cordon off the area by lot 85.

Using the headline “Bloody Milton Mystery,” the paper claims the police were investigating “a crime scene that has all the markings of a homicide.” There were unconfirmed reports of a bloody scene with “all the markings of a homicide” and police helicopter hovering overhead. Sheriff’s investigators declined to comment on their presence in the park and concerned neighbors vetted about their angst regarding the mysterious investigation. And The Saratogian was there to listen.

Other news agencies, mainly the print media, weren’t too eager to jump on the story —and with good reason. See, often times when police sources refuse to give even a meager morsel to the press about an investigation, it usually means there isn’t a morsel to be given, as is the case with most suicides.

One of the quandaries of journalism is covering suicides, which unless done in a very public manner, are often shunned by most media outlets. While news agencies have absolutely no shame in contacting a grieving widower or family member even before the body cools in the minutes after a horrific tragedy, there is a line that isn’t crossed for those who take their own lives.

As the television news channels revel in saying, there’s no word yet from the sheriff’s department about what occurred out at Saratoga West. They’re supposedly preparing a press release to sum up the incident, but deputies were in no apparent hurry to get the information out this weekend, which is a good sign they’re not looking for an ax murderer on the rampage.

Not that there isn’t at least one killer on the road. Or a bloody Milton mystery that still hasn’t been solved by the sheriff’s department sleuths. In fact, there’s at least one confirmed murder in Milton that neither The Saratogian nor the sheriff’s department have made a peep about since last March.

Christina White’s brutal stabbing more than a year ago is proof again that once the blood dries up, so does the interest in solving or publicizing the case. One could argue that the grisly headline and above-the-fold front page placement of the so-called Milton mystery in The Saratogian would be better served in drawing attention to a real unsolved murder, not just hearsay among the trailer park.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's an old saying in journalism: "I'd rather be right than first." Clearly, some people would rather be first, even if all they're printing is a bundle of rumors.

As for suicides, they're not news unless they have a news impact, like if someone jumps out into traffic and causes a wreck/tie-up, or if there's a manhunt for someone missing that turns out to be a suicide.

10:30 PM  

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