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The situation makes me sick

March 26, 2012

Am I the only person in the Crossroads area who was absolutely sickened by the television coverage of the human remains found at the McMahon-Wrinkle Airpark Tuesday?

Bear in mind, I'm not referring to the type of “sickened” you commonly find after someone stumbles onto a corpse, mummified or not. No, I mean that sick feeling you get in the bottom of your stomach, sort of like what you feel when you hear someone on death row was executed and they found out the next day they were innocent of their crime.

That kind of sickened.

For those who live under a rock — and I hear you can even get wifi there these days — the short and skinny version is this: Human remains were discovered on the airpark, and as law enforcement officials went about doing their job, the media immediately turned it into an Easter egg hunt for the area's high profile missing persons.

The sad part about it, however, is no matter how horrified I was with the circus tents going up all over town, that pain absolutely pales in comparison to what the families of the missing people — Colorado City teen Hailey Dunn and Big Spring's own Arlin Bynum and Bobby Marquez Jr — were going through as the video tape whipped by at breakneck speed.

My phone literally blew up within the first 24 hours, as my friends and family tried frantically to sort through the chum-filled waters the TV stations were setting their hooks in for just a bit of true-life information, free of the sensationalism that is the brimstone of the industry.

After going through two fully charged batteries before 9 p.m., I had hoped the worst was over. I was wrong.

I find myself reminded of something John Foster, former general manager of NewsWest 9, said to me during an afternoon meeting while I served as their Big Spring bureau chief and news anchor.

“Never underestimate the stupidity of national news.”

Now, Foster was an amazing boss to work for and the day he passed away TV journalism in the Permian Basin took a serious blow. But it's those little nuggets of wisdom he left behind for us that are so, so important.

He couldn't be more right. Thursday, HLN Network TV personality — I use the term personality because calling her a reporter is an insult to every man and woman who has ever held a press pass — went on national television with the report the remains were “likely” those of Hailey Dunn.

Bear in mind, Grace is no fool. She covered her rear-end by adding that ever-so-slight disclaimer “according to a local news source,” although she never cites which news source ever said it was “likely.”
Either way, Grace and her cronies did what they do best Thursday, they turned something into nothing, then turned that into something else, discussed it some more and then drew their own outrageous conclusion.

If you look closely enough at the formula, you'll probably figure out how most of the episodes of Seinfeld were written.

The entire time this is going on — and don't think Grace was alone, because other news sources, national, local and otherwise were also spewing their sensationalist bull, as well — law enforcement is saying the same thing, over and over again: Please don't jump to conclusions.

Unfortunately that's exactly what happened, and people in the Crossroads area — including family and friends of those missing — collectively held their breath, on one hand hoping for closure in the case, while simultaneously hoping they are still out there somewhere, no matter how unrealistic that may actually be.
I'm of the opinion Nancy Grace — and the rest of the news outlets who sensationalized the story, because each of you know who you are — owes the Crossroads, as a whole, an apology. Shame on each and every one of you for using other people's pain and suffering for your own ends.

I know full-well TV news is going to beat us — and by us, I mean the newspaper — to the punch almost every time. The ability to reach viewers nearly 24-hours a day is huge, however, with such an amazing gift there should come a level of responsibility. Unfortunately, not only does that level not exist at this time, Americans aren't exactly clamoring for it.

In the meantime, you'll find me here, stomping my feet and yelling at the top of my lungs for change.
I hope the families and loved ones who had their lives turned upside down by all of this find the peace they deserve. This column is dedicated to them and them alone.

Contact Staff Writer Thomas Jenkins at 263-7331 ext. 232 or by e-mail at citydesk@bigspringherald.com

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