An editorial by Hal Goodtree, Publisher of CaryCitizen.
Cary, NC – My friend Pagliacci, a professional photo journalist, wrote last week to mock me about our lack of coverage concerning the murder of Nancy Cooper. “It’s the biggest story of the year and you missed it!” he crowed.
Au contraire, my sad friend. We chose not to cover it. Here’s why.
1. Profiteering from Tragedy
Where is the line between news and sensationalism? When does normal news coverage morph into profiteering from tragedy?
In our book, we stay away from stories whose main or only merit is sensationalism, controversy or tragedy. Those stories may get lots of web views, but they damage the community in which we all live.
Since the local newspaper has the bad-news franchise locked up, we focus on the good news – Education, Arts, Non-Profits, Sports, Business – community stories of achievement, success or even healing. We featured Nancy’s Butterfly Fund Gala in our weekend events coverage last week. That’s the fund set up as a memorial to Nancy Cooper.
2. The Crime That Launched a Thousand News Stories
Meanwhile, a handful of our local mass media outlets latched onto the Cooper murder story like junkies on crack.
The story has dominated the evening newscasts. The News & Observer lists more than 200 stories on a keyword search for “Nancy Cooper.”
Taken together, local mass media has likely published a thousand stories on the murder. I’m tired of seeing Brad Cooper’s face on my Facebook home page and on the front of the N&O. There is more to our community than Brad Cooper.
3. Cary’s a Baaaaaaaaad Town
The subtext in much of the major media coverage of the Cooper story is the notion that Cary is a baaaaaaaaaad town. Our allegedly beige exterior hides a secretly depraved core. The News & Observer loves this thread. It’s been a staple of their coverage for years.
They’ve even pushed that message down to the Cary News. As if we hadn’t gotten the word in the previous 200 stories, the Cary News spelled it out for “friends” on Facebook on Sunday:
Meanwhile, 61 other things went on in Cary just this past weekend. Scant coverage of that (except here).
I was at Herbfest on Saturday. The place was packed, but I didn’t see a lot of baaaaaaaaaad people. Not very beige either.
4. Disservice to the Cary Police
In perhaps the most shockingly cynical twist to their narrative, the newspaper trashes the police department (and it’s not the first time).
They talk about the “unrelenting spotlight” on “the Cary Police Department, accused of incompetence and bias.” Who said that? Brad Cooper’s attorney.
He’s supposed to say that. But, thankfully, neither the judge nor the jury was buying it.
The headline could have read “Cary Police Vindicated.”
5. Why Read It?
As Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht pointed out in his blog,
“I believe the newspaper did a hatchet job on one of the premiere communities in Cary, Lochmere, especially in the story ‘Case was Lifestyles of the “Popular” and “Affluent”‘.
And it’s not an aberration. The newspaper coverage of the Cooper story was hand-in-glove with their coverage of the Bowden story, the Wachovia bank robbery story, the Wake County Board of Ed story and on and on.
For advertisers, one has to ask if this same local newspaper actually reaches the hearts and minds of the people of Cary anymore. For many of my neighbors, it reaches the recycling bin, that’s for sure.
If you feel the way I do, take action by saying NO to the N&O. Unlike them on Facebook and unfriend them on Twitter. Cancel your print subscription. I get The Wall Street Journal delivered to my house 6 days a week, all year, for $149.
Or maybe we should collect all those nasty issues of the N&O and have a big bonfire. On July 4th. Call it our Independence Day.
And that’s how I feel about the coverage of the Cooper story, Pagliacci.