Even though more than 13 years had passed when I wrote the chapter in The Turner Report book on The Carthage Press' coverage of the death of eight-year-old Doug Ringler of Carthage, it wasn't any easier than it was when he was first discovered missing, then like Rowan Ford, turned out to have been murdered by someone who was trusted by the family.
So I understand the difficulty journalists have in doing this kind of sordid story, and as usual, under extremely trying circumstances, the media has done an outstanding job, including everyone from The Joplin Globe and Neosho Daily News, KODE, KSNF, KOAM, KFJX, to the Springfield television stations, and the Associated Press.
With so much for them to cover, there has been little time for reflection on the horrific events, but two journalists, Editor Carol Stark of the Joplin Globe and reporter Michelle Sherwood of KSPR has offered some thoughts today.
For her weekly column, Mrs. Stark asked Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland how can we protect our children from the monsters that exist in this society:
We get involved,” he told me.
That means not only watching out for our own children, but others.
“Maybe you see a little one walking alongside the road,” he said. “You know they shouldn’t be there. Call someone. You could be saving that child’s life.”
Mrs. Stark concludes the column with an astute observation:
The men who have been charged were not strangers to Rowan, which makes the circumstances even more deplorable if that’s possible.
“Family values aren’t what they once were,” said Copeland. “Then, when the unthinkable happens, parents seem truly surprised that their child has become a victim.”
Copeland and I talked for quite some time. His anger and frustration was evident. I walked away feeling as though there is no longer an age of innocence. So many kids don’t get a chance to just be kids.
Michelle Sherwood's blog post dealt directly with how these tragic stories affect reporters:
This is the most horrible crime against a child I can imagine.
It terrifies me to think that there are people out there who could carry out such a brutal act.
Even though it's nothing compared to those who knew and loved Rowan,
I have to say that it's pretty disturbing to cover...
I did not have to go out to any of the crime scenes, but it is pretty difficult and disturbing to read the things that allegedly happened to her...
It has been weighing heavily on my mind.
At the same time, it's exhausting.
We've all been working endless hours trying to get the latest information on the case, and work through our station's challenges.
Miss Sherwood offers an excellent suggestion that news organizations should consider when their reporters have to cover traumatic stories such as the Rowan Ford murder:
My personal thought is that news organizations should be required to bring in counselors for their staff when things like this happen. Law enforcement agencies do it for their officers because they see so much. Journalists are in many ways in the thick of it, too.
Anyway, please do not forget Rowan.
She trusted someone, and he violated it in the worst way.
Her story cannot be something that's covered one week and forgotten the next.