Last Tuesday, Charlotte Sun editors ran what's essentially a one-source story, offered up by two men claiming to be uncle and cousin to a man whom local cops have charged with kidnapping and killing a young mom. The writer, a city editor, gives no explanation for why one of the men calls the suspect his “ex-nephew,” so the reader is left to guess from the very start about blended and broken family ties and the hard feelings that almost always fester from family splits.
The uncle (ex-uncle, I guess) said he had not seen the suspect in more than a year and had a vague idea that, prior to the homicide, he might have been living somewhere in Michigan or a small Florida town about an hour’s drive north of here. Despite these tenuous and distant connections, the reporter gives uncle (ex-uncle) center stage. Uncle's soliloquy is a catalog of family innuendo and a litany of what should be instantly recognized as libel – probably overlooked because the suspect has already been convicted in a two-week trial held in the newspaper’s pages.
NORTH PORT – Harold Muxlow Sr. says he hopes he’s wrong, but he fears ex-nephew Michael King, who has been charged with the murder of Denise Amber Lee, may have harmed other women.
...“I pray my gut instinct is wrong,” he said. But I’ve told police to check in Michigan and Homasassa ... for missing persons.”
A couple of paragraphs later, ex-uncle’s son says the suspect came by the house to borrow digging equipment. He could see a woman in the car’s back seat; he heard her yell “Call the cops.” But he didn’t.
“I was used to my cousin having wacky girlfriends and telling tall tales, so at the time I thought this was a spat between the two. My mother had told me things his mom said about him and his psycho girlfriends. He was just a bad judge of women he dated.”None of the story's information, assembled by North Port City Editor Elaine Allen-Emrich, seems to have been verified. Family agendas are aired without question, accusations and libel go in a juicy headline, and professional standards lie in a shallow grave, along with the victim.
Editorial Reading-Attention Span ...
... should span, oh, say, at least two sentences. Here's a fire-in-the-diner story:
No damage was reported [... the restaurant] was closed Thursday for repairs.
The cutline reads: A DeSoto County Homeless Coalition census team [...] tries to make contact Wednesday with the residents of a structure that could qualify as homeless under federal standards.
Dear Jon: Structures aren't homeless; people are. Grammar is your friend, but you must learn how to aim those relative clauses.