Tag Archives: The News Tribune

Special Comment: Regarding My Recent Coverage of a Local Girl’s Suicide

I’ve been writing some version of Tacoma Stories since 2006. In those years, I’ve learned quite a bit and come up with a style that works for the site. I report the facts.  Then I report what I think of those facts. My article about the young girl who jumped off the South 48th Street overpass has been viewed almost 300,000 times by people in over 130 countries. It has resulted in dozens if not hundreds of other articles including one in the Washington Post. Yesterday a radio station from San Diego called me to talk about it.

Our local media however has been fairly quiet. During the weekend after I wrote the article I was contacted by three TV reporters and a newspaper reporter from The News Tribune. I talked to the News Tribune reporter on the phone. She wanted to know what I knew, wanted a link to the shaming video, and for me to pass along her contact information to my sources.

Yesterday, nine days after the incident, The News Tribune came out with its firstsubstantial piece on the young girl’s death. It included new information such as the fact that the girl left behind suicide notes. But it said she wrote them on an iPod which made no sense because iPods are for listening to music. It said that the trouble started on May 3rd when the girl sent a photo of herself to a boy which resulted in her father cutting her hair as a punishment two days before she jumped, but doesn’t explain the three weeks between those two incidents. So I thought better of adding another update to the original article because their information didn’t make a lot of sense.

Today The News Tribune came out with an unsigned editorial attacking the online coverage of this girl’s death and defending their near silence. It accuses us of spreading rumors as facts and attempting to publicly shame the victim’s family. I cannot speak for other websites or their coverage but given the sheer volume of traffic and the number of sites linking to mine about this, I feel these untrue accusations demand a response.

One of the primary purposes of Tacoma Stories is to put the victim and the victim’s family first because traditional media tends to lead with the killers rather than giving a thought to the victim or the victim’s family. This is why in the case of the young girl who jumped off the bridge I felt it was appropriate to not mention her or her family’s names. This is where the accusation that we’re publicly shaming the father falls flat. You can’t publicly shame someone you refuse to name.

As for the accusation that I’m spreading rumors as fact. This is also absolutely untrue. I said that a public shaming of the victim made by the victim’s father was released online, that days later she jumped from her grandparents’ car, and jumped off the S. 48th Street overpass. Not one of those facts are in dispute. After that I start talking about public shaming and its consequences and I point out this tragedy as an example.

The News Tribune has gone out of its way to say that the video had nothing whatsoever to do with the girl choosing to jump off the overpass. This is as much speculation as saying that the video was the sole reason for her choosing to jump. Tacoma Stories makes neither assertion. I believe that the video was a contributing factor and I’ve said so. I don’t believe that the father or the family wanted the victim harmed in any way. These are my opinions on the matter.

I also believe that the family of the victim is going through something unimaginable and deserve privacy during a time I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Of course they shouldn’t be publicly shamed. This is why I never named them. It’s also why I took down offending comments and closed the comments section of the original post when the family asked me to do so.

To be clear, I do agree with the News Tribune that some coverage of this story has been reprehensible and deserving of criticism. Though I would argue that lack of coverage is worth criticizing as well.

Traditional media has spent years trying to understand the online world and how to monetize it. They scoff at bloggers and other ‘citizen journalists’ who write because we have an interest and a passion in something. And yet we’re among the first people they contact when they’re looking for a source.

– Jack Cameron

Update 06/14/15: The News Tribune has posted yet another editorial about this. I’ve decided that it’s inappropriate to continue to respond to the local paper’s accusations on this page. For my response, go to the TacomaStories Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/tacomastoriesofficial

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5 Question Friday With The News Tribune’s Crime Reporter Stacey Mulick

Photo Courtesy of FreeFoto.com

Before Tacoma Stories, this site was something called The South Tacoma Way. One of the first people to notice my site was News Tribune Crime Reporter, Stacey Mulick. Since then, I’ve started this site and Stacey has remained at the Tribune keeping an eye on the darker side of the City of Destiny. It’s safe to say that without Stacey’s diligent reporting, there’s no way I would be able to chronicle the Tacoma Homicides nearly as well. Her reports are often the starting point for those articles.

Stacey is one of the main contributors to The News Tribune’s Lights & Sirens blog. This week she was nice enough to join me for 5 Question Friday.

1. You’ve been the News Tribune’s crime reporter for many years now. What keeps you interested in Tacoma?

I grew up in the Puget Sound region and love this area. This is home for me, for my family and for my extended family so I don’t see myself leaving. I was fortunate to get a job coming out of college that allowed me to stay in the region that I love. Plus, I continue to find stories that intrigue me.

2. The newspaper industry has gone through tremendous changes. What do you see for the future of newspapers?

I think newspapers will continue to be around and have an important place in our communities. Newspapers have had to adapt in recent years because of the changes in advertising revenue and the explosion of the Internet and social networking sites. Newspapers will continue to adapt and expand their web-based content.

3. As the crime reporter, you focus is obviously on the negative side of Tacoma. What are some positive aspects of the city that you’d like to talk about?

I love to write stories about neighborhoods that have turned themselves around after being plagued for years by crime and blight and victims that have overcome obstacles to better their lives. Over the past 13 years, I’ve seen Tacoma change a lot. The Hilltop is not what it was when I first arrived as a green college student. Downtown has changed and evolved and so have some of the neighborhoods. The amount of crime – and the type of crime – is not what it was when I first arrived. Meth manufacturing has mostly come and gone. The gangs are still here but recent crackdowns have tempered the violence.

4. What’s something that most people don’t know about being a reporter?

We’re human. I think people expect reporters to be perfect all the time, work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and know all the answers instantaneously, especially now with so much attention to the web. We work hard, get the information as fast as we can, ask follow up questions and put together as complete, accurate and timely stories as we can.

5. Where’s your favorite place in Tacoma to relax?

I am addicted to the Puyallup Farmers’ Market.

Thanks to Stacey for participating in 5 Question Friday. If you’re looking for crime news in Tacoma, her Lights & Sirens blog is the best place to go on the web.

As always, if you have suggestions or you or someone you know wants to participate in 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

-Jack Cameron