Tag Archives: journalism

Journalists Jump to Conclusions Re: Tom Schweich’s Death

Unlike so many who work as journalists, I refuse to label two recent and much-publicized deaths in the Show-Me State as suicides until those in charge of investigating those deaths make such declarations public.

Thomas A. "Tom" Schweich and Robert "Spence" Jackson

During the past four days, I’ve written and published three articles related to the tragic deaths of Tom Schweich, 54, a second-term Missouri state auditor and declared Republican candidate for governor Feb. 26, and his official spokesperson, Robert “Spence” Jackson, 44, only 30 days later. In the most recent article, I revealed two facts other media outlets have, thusfar, failed to share with their audiences.

First, I shared a statement received via email Monday from Dr. Mary E. Case, St. Louis County’s chief medical examiner. Among other things, she explained that the autopsy, including complete toxicology testing, is complete. She did not, however, say that the death had been ruled a suicide.

Second, I shared a statement received from Clayton (Mo.) Police Chief Kevin Murphy. In an email message about the investigation into Schweich’s death Monday, he wrote, “Currently, the investigation is not closed.” As was the case with Dr. Case, Chief Murphy did not say that the death had been ruled a suicide.

Many in the local, state and national news media, however, have been quick to gloss over the fact no one in any official capacity to make such a statement has said definitively that Schweich committed suicide. [FYI: I have yet to look into the matter of whether any such official statement has been issued regarding Jackson’s death.]

Click on image above to link to article.

Click on image above to link to article.

The most recent in-state example appeared in the Sedalia Democrat April 3. One didn’t have to read beyond the headline of a column by Bob Satnan to see that the editors at the central Missouri newspaper were comfortable publishing a statement not backed up by anyone authorized to confirm it:  Lessons to be learned from 2 suicides.

Click on image above to link to article.

Click on image above to link to article.

Virginia Young of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch waited until the seventh paragraph of her April 1 Political Fix column, but she still used the “S” word without its use substantiated by anyone in an official capacity.

Media outlets outside of the state have done the same thing.

The “S” word appeared in the headline and first paragraph of an April Fools Day piece, Two Suicides Rock Missouri Politics, in The Daily Beast. Notably, the piece was written by Missouri’s own Eli Yokely. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he should have known better than to use the term without official confirmation.

The “S” word also appeared in the subhead of Luke Brinker‘s March 30 piece in Salon and in the first paragraph of Stacy Hatton‘s March 24 piece in The Huffington Post.

Perhaps things have changed inside journalism school classrooms during the 30-plus years since I received my degree in the subject. I do know, however, that I would have received a failing grade had I used the word, suicide, without verifying it by way of an official report and attributing that verification to the individual or agency that provided it. Until such verification is provided by someone authorized to offer it, I will use terms such as alleged, apparent, possible and suspect in front of the the word, suicide.

Stay tuned for more updates. To see previous articles on this topic, click here.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks!

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Is Investigative Journalism Dead in Missouri?

Thirty-six days have passed and the findings of any autopsy performed on the body of the late Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich remain a mystery to the general public. On top of that, members of the St. Louis journalism community appear to have little or no interest in obtaining the autopsy findings. Is investigative journalism dead in Missouri?

Schweich_and_Jackson

To date, I’ve found no evidence that any government agency in the state of Missouri — not the Clayton Police Department whose officers responded to Schweich’s Clayton home after receiving a 911 call, not the St. Louis County Medical Examiner and not the Missouri State Highway Patrol — has released any findings from the Scweich autopsy. Likewise, I’ve found no evidence of any St. Louis-area news organizations expressing much interest in such findings.

Am I An Odd Duck? Maybe.

Maybe I’m an odd duck, but it strikes me that there is a compelling public interest in knowing whether or not Schweich, a hard-hitting state auditor who had recently launched his campaign for governor, actually took his own life at 54 or was assisted in that endeavor. And one would think that journalists in the same state as the University of Missouri School of Journalism, one of the nation’s premier training grounds for journalists, would pursue this subject aggressively. But they’re not.

Am I Callous and Inconsiderate?

Some who read this will accuse me of being callous and inconsiderate by trampling in an area where no one should go. I beg to differ.

For weeks after Schweich’s death, I resisted the urge to go there and decided to let the wheels of justice turn. I was certain the autopsy findings would be released. After all, according to a KOMU-TV report on the day of Schweich’s death, Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy said autopsy findings would be made available at 7:30 a.m. the next day. Instead, 30 days passed without any findings being made public, and tragedy struck again.

Sometime between Feb. 27 and Feb. 29, according to published reports like this one, Schweich spokesperson Spence Jackson, 44, allegedly used the same method as Schweich — a single gunshot wound to the head — to take his own life. Unlike Schweich, who some claim was distraught over an alleged “whisper campaign” about his faith, Jackson was reportedly distraught over the prospect of being unemployed again. As a man who’s had many different jobs over his lifetime, including managing back-to-back congressional campaigns, I find neither of the alleged reasons behind the alleged suicides plausible.

Let’s Play “What If?”

What if a certain someone(s) feared Schweich’s team of auditors might uncover evidence of serious wrongdoing? According to the Audits in Progress section of the Missouri State Auditor’s website, Schweich’s auditors were conducting audits on dozens of organizations, including the Missouri Governor’s Office, the Missouri State Lottery Commission, the Missouri Department of Revenue and the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Use of State Data.

Today, I decided to start doing the job members of the St. Louis-area news media have thusfar failed to do. As Step One, I sent an email message to Clayton, Mo., Police Chief Kevin Murphy at 9:18 a.m. After identifying myself as an author and freelance investigative reporter, I got straight to the point with the man whose officers are in charge of the Schweich investigation:

According to this article, you were quoted as saying autopsy results on the body of the late Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich would be made available at 7:30 a.m. Friday (Feb. 27, 2015). Were the autopsy results ever released?

If so, I would like to obtain a copy of whatever information your agency released.

If not, why not?

I closed the message by thanking him in advance for his prompt reply. Now, I will give Chief Murphy a few days to get back to me. It is, after all, a holiday weekend.

Be sure to check back often as I will provide updates as they become available.

UPDATE 4/03/2015 at 12:07 p.m. Central:  At 11:59 a.m., I received a reply from Chief Murphy at the Clayton Police Department. He wrote:

Mr. McCarty,

An autopsy was conducted on the morning of the 27th, at 0730.  I didn’t say the results would be available then.  I believe we are waiting on the completed, written, autopsy report.  In any event, only the Medical Examiner’s Office can release an autopsy report.  We are not authorized to make a secondary release of the information.

The autopsy was conducted by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office.  They can be contacted, as follows:

St Louis County Medical Examiner
Address:  6059 Helen Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63134
Phone:  (314) 615-0800

Sincerely,

Kevin R. Murphy
Chief of Police

Now, my next step will be to call the medical examiner’s office. Stay tuned!

UPDATE #2 4/03/2015 at 12:32 p.m. Central:  Moments ago, I used the CONTACT US tool to send the following request to the media folks at the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office:

In an email this morning, I asked Chief Kevin R. Murphy of the Clayton, MO., Police Department if he could provide me a copy of the autopsy report containing the findings from the autopsy performed on the body of the late Missouri State Auditor Thomas Schweich. In reply, he wrote the following:

“An autopsy was conducted on the morning of the 27th, at 0730.  I didn’t say the results would be available then.  I believe we are waiting on the completed, written, autopsy report.  In any event, only the Medical Examiner’s Office can release an autopsy report.  We are not authorized to make a secondary release of the information. The autopsy was conducted by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office.”

Now, because of the immense public interest in Mr. Schweich’s death, I would like to request a copy of the report or a summary of the findings of that report.

Please advise ASAP as to whether you will be able to provide the information. Thanks!

Now, again, we wait. Stay tuned for the next update.

UPDATE #3 4/06/2015 at 1:35 p.m. Central:  Read the latest update in a new piece published moments ago.

UPDATE #4 4/6/2015 at 3:57 p.m. Central:  BREAKING NEWS! EXCLUSIVE! Medical Examiner Says Tom Schweich Autopsy ‘Complete’.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

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News Media Fails to Provide Thorough Coverage of Latest Oklahoma City Bombing Trial in Salt Lake City Federal Court

Two days ago, I shared news about the courtroom portion of a little-publicized Oklahoma City Bombing Trial coming to an end in federal court in Salt Lake City. Then I waited for members of the news media in Oklahoma City and around the world to share news about the trial. For the most part, I heard crickets.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

While I never expected members of the national media to devote much time and attention to the case, I remained hopeful that so-called “journalists” in the state where I earned my journalism degree would see the news value of the trial. Sadly, they’ve underwhelmed me.

While reporters at NewsOK.com, the online home of the state’s largest print newspaper (The Oklahoman), have covered the trial, the coverage has lacked enthusiasm. Proof can be found in the fact that five months have passed since the last trial-related report in which the name of the plaintiff, Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue, was mentioned appeared on the site under the headline, FBI agent to testify in Oklahoma City videos case.

Conversely, yours truly has published several articles since that date, the date I shared news under the headline, Documents Raise Serious Questions As New Oklahoma City Bombing Trial Takes Place in Federal Court in Utah, and included a chilling one-hour video of Trentadue explaining his quest:

• On Nov. 7, I shared news about Federal Judge Clark Waddoups threatening FBI officials with contempt of court for failing to comply with his order and provide a required report.

• On Dec. 3, I shared news about Judge Waddoups being asked by Trentadue to appoint a special master to investigate allegations of FBI witness tampering.

• On Dec. 16, I shared news about the arrest of an FBI agent who allegedly beat up his girlfriend. The story was relevant inasmuch as the agent involved was the same one I had mentioned in the Dec. 3 report as having allegedly told a key witness to take a vacation.

On the FBI website, the Oklahoma City bombing is described as "the worst act of homegrown terrorism in the nation’s history." Click on image above to read why this narrative appears to be false.

On the FBI website, the Oklahoma City bombing is described as “the worst act of homegrown terrorism in the nation’s history.” Click on image above to read why this narrative appears to be false.

• On Dec. 30, I asked a question — Does ‘Domestic Terrorism’ Label Apply to OKC Bombing? — after learning Trentadue had obtained evidence that led him to say, “My thoughts are that the CIA could only have been involved if there was some foreign connection,” after I asked him to explain the involvement of the intelligence agency tasked with the collection of national intelligence outside the United States.

Of course, NewsOK.com isn’t the only Oklahoma City news outlet failing to keep Oklahomans informed. Local television stations have, for the most part, dropped the ball as well.

For instance, News9.com hasn’t broadcast a story in which the name of the plaintiff, Trentadue, was mentioned since July 30, 2014. Likewise, KFOR-TV hasn’t mentioned Trentadue in a story of their own since July 31, 2014, though they did share a Salt Lake City station’s story Nov. 13. Following suit, KOKH-Fox 25 has aired only two pieces during the past year — one on Aug. 17 and the other Aug. 22.

The only television station in the state capitol city appearing to have made a slight effort to report about the trial was KOCO-TV. During 2014, the station aired five no-byline pieces — July 30*, Aug. 1, Aug. 26, Oct. 28 and Nov. 11*. Sadly, two of them — each marked by an asterisk (*) — spanned only four paragraphs.

Worth noting: I did not dive into the radio scene, because there are simply too few radio journalists anymore to make such a look worthwhile.

As The X-Files characters “Mulder” and “Scully” said so often, “The truth is out there.” Now, I think Trentadue is on the verge of finding it. Judge Waddoups is expected to issue a ruling in the case by the end of the year, so stay tuned!

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

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New Crime-Fiction Thriller Draws From Real-World Issues

Anyone who’s read Three Days In August and/or The Clapper Memo knows these nonfiction books of mine tackle real-world issues with fact after fact after fact. In a similar way, my first crime-fiction novel, The National Bet, draws from the same realities.

The New York Times newsroom in 1942. By Marjory Collins [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times newsroom in 1942. By Marjory Collins [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As an example, I point you to the following paragraph that appears on page 52 of the paperback version of the book:

Members of the nation’s largest national news media outlets (a.k.a., “the mainstream media”) had apparently opted to stick to their decades-old practice of serving as propaganda organs for elected officials and special interest groups devoted to the government-knows-best ideology. As a result, only those who witnessed such events firsthand or paid attention to alternative news sources (a.k.a., “the new media”) were likely to know the true extent to which their elected officials and the MSM had failed them.

Fifteen pages later, the paragraph below appears:

Finally, members of the mainstream media began doing their jobs as journalists.
Newspapers began offering objective front-page reports, and news magazines began offering the kind of long-form stories that had almost disappeared from the journalism landscape. Most importantly, details about several scandals that had been overlooked during the previous six years— including, but not limited to, Benghazi, “Extortion 17,” and “Fast and Furious”—began to emerge.

If you want to find out what happens between these two excerpts, order a copy of The National Bet.

UPDATE 4/19/2015 at 1:30 p.m. Central: Check out the limited-time free-books offer here.

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.