Editorial: The Cooper Murder Story

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.


13 replies
  1. Hal Goodtree
    Hal Goodtree says:

    Thanks all for weighing in on the discussion.

    Investigative reporting is indeed a necessary component of a free and fair society. But it is also a tool that is easily abused.

    If the N&O were not here, someone else would pick up the mantle of investigative journalism. Some already have.

  2. Laura
    Laura says:

    I would never lump Cary Citizen and the N&O together as purveyors of information. Do they have much in common? I love that the Cary Citizen can focus on people and positives. But I also read the N&O every morning with my big girl pants on. I’ll be forever grateful that they exposed the SBI goings on and asked the right questions about Mike Easley. Take out true newspapers, and who does that work?

  3. Ian Henshaw
    Ian Henshaw says:

    What I have recently found disturbing is that many of the major news outlets have advertising and tracking links that are so slow to load that it seems that your browser/computer has hung. I know that this is not a download issue as I pay for a very, very large download… Many times, it is faster to scan the news in print editions rather than look for news on the web. I am rapidly losing my interest in searching for content on the Internet. The print edition of the WSJ and the TBJ are much less frustrating. FYI, the on-line Cary Citizen is good for download.

  4. Lori
    Lori says:

    I was glad to see the Cary Citizen continue its positive focus on what makes Cary GREAT! Yes, there are incidents that occur, that have been covered by the Cary Citizen that aren’t “positive”, such as the Wachovia Bank shooting. That’s what’s great about this local outlet. Keep on doing what you do so well!

  5. Brent
    Brent says:

    Thank you, Hal, for pointing out what makes CaryCitizen different from other local media.

    And thanks to CaryCitizen for being different in just that way — and for making a difference!

  6. Doug
    Doug says:

    You sounds more like a PR megaphone for the city than an actual news organization such as the N&O. You have way too much bias to be considered real journalism.

  7. Robert Campbell
    Robert Campbell says:

    I don’t believe the criticism of the Cary PD is without merit. Any (so-called) detective that erases a phone that is being held for evidence should be terminated. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that the Cary PD lacks hardcore expertise in investigating murder cases. But the leadership there that decided that Cary PD must be in the forefront of this case deserves everything leveled at them — it was a poor process at best and Cary PD should call in help for such matters.

  8. Hal Goodtree
    Hal Goodtree says:

    I wrote the article on Saturday, Harold. Your blog gave me the courage to publish it.

    It’s a sad state of affairs when a community has to defend itself against the local newspaper.

  9. Harold Weinbrecht
    Harold Weinbrecht says:

    Thanks to you and the Cary Citizen for always presenting ALL the information and the truth. It is sad that our local newspapers are turning more towards tabloid news rather than hometown newspapers. Those of us that love and defend Cary appreciate what you do. Thanks!
    Harold Weinbrecht

  10. Hal Goodtree
    Hal Goodtree says:

    Thanks Steve. Yeah, I kind of slipped off the Pedestal of Positive with this one.

    In addition to the WSJ, I get my news from many good local sources including TBJ, Carolina Parent, The Independent, CarrboroCitizen, GarnerCitizen and a host of individuals and organizations who publish their own information on Facebook & Twitter & their own websites. That’s where the real community news is happening.

  11. Oldcary
    Oldcary says:

    I appreciate your ‘positive’ editorial. The Noise & Disturber must derive some satisfaction anytime they can diminish my beloved Town of Cary with their sardonic writing. Hal, please keep the CaryCitizen going with the positive.
    Thanks for your service to the greatest ‘Town’ in NC.

  12. Hal Goodtree
    Hal Goodtree says:

    Karen – Thanks so much for your comment. My heart goes out to all the workers in an increasingly tenuous situation at the N&O. It’s management that deserves the blame for years of bad decisions including way too much debt and missed opportunities on the internet.

  13. Karen Lee
    Karen Lee says:

    That may be so, but the N&O is also made up of employees, some of whom live in Cary. Like my husband. We are edging closer and closer to the drain while the N&O is desperately trying to stay afloat any way they can. Buy the Wall Street Journal. Great. And when my husband looses his job doing what he does in a damn fine way, we’ll just have to take our decidedly non-beige lives somewhere else. Maybe he’ll look into that job offer from the Washington Post.

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