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There has been a lot of emotional response to last week’s column, which dealt with the murder of Jim Duckett and how his family was trying social networking and other Internet options in their efforts to help find his killer.
Some members of his extended family felt I was somehow making light of this effort. Sadly, that was far from the message I wanted to convey.
Writing about the victims of heinous crimes can be touchy. Privacy and grief can be tremendous obstacles on the path of good intentions.
And some members of Duckett’s family were in tears. Others were angry. Most didn’t understand.
Their site on Facebook was lit up with comments, and The Sentinel-News was invited to join as a friend. Which it did.
For in the pursuit of the killer of Jim Duckett, The Sentinel-News truly is a friend of the family.
Yes, we remain objective – what I write in this space is personal opinion and apart from the news coverage of this crime – but our goal is shared with the family: We want to see the killer caught, brought to justice and the community set free of the fear that some sort of psychopath is driving our roads and perhaps looking for another victim.
We want to see all the rumors about Duckett and his activities put to rest, one way or another, and we want the police to be free to move along to other pressing issues, such as arresting those who sexually abuse young people.
But right along with those goals, we want peace for Duckett’s memory and for those who cherish it.
There is a growing and somewhat understandable – if frustrating -- distrust of the media. All of us – print, TV, radio, Web – are held to a high standard for accuracy and fairness – as we should be – but also judged through a narrow lens.
Most of us consume news now based on what we know and how we feel. We aren’t objective. We have a viewpoint, because we have already been informed by the time we get to the next piece of news.
Some rely on rumors and special-interest Web sites to form those views, and that approach can cause friction that pulls apart the very goal of every news organization: to serve as a watchdog for the public’s greater good.
In cases such as Duckett’s, the media can be the friend of the family. No matter who the suspect in a case might be, our bright light of scrutiny can help illuminate information that will lead to an arrest and a conviction.
That’s why the newspaper wants to keep Duckett’s story alive.
That’s why we write news stories to update the police’s investigation – yes, details are skimpy – and why the paper published an editorial encouraging the police to keep the community (and family) better informed.
Steve Claycomb, a member of Duckett’s extended family, was not happy when he read my original column. But after talking with me, he came to understand my intent.
Claycomb shared a story – names and places are withheld – about how a boss of his had lost a daughter to murder and how that man had struggled with the progress of the investigation.
Claycomb said one thing he took from what he knew about that case was that the media’s scrutiny could be an asset.
So here’s the bottom line:
If you are a member of Duckett’s family, please understand that we hear your pain and understand how it is eating away at your insides. We are very sorry for that.
And if you are investigating this crime, please know that we will not let it go. Finding this killer is too important for that family and this community.
That part is eating at all our insides.