The Herald Bulletin

Overnight Update

Opinion

May 5, 2013

Scott Underwood: Baer story painful but important

ANDERSON, Ind. — While community-minded journalists take steps, when possible, to minimize unintended hardship for people affected by news articles, newspapers rarely make decisions based on potential collateral damage. Mission No. 1 is to serve readers by providing the news, good or bad.

This philosophy sometimes runs contrary to the approach expected by individual readers or groups of readers, particularly when they have a personal connection to a news story.

At The Herald Bulletin, recent coverage about a convicted murderer aroused such concerns.

We sent a photographer, videographer and reporter up to the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City to interview death-row inmate Fredrick Michael Baer. The trip was planned after we learned that Baer was fully confessing his crimes and that he was on the verge of dropping the appeals process.

The Sunday after our interview with Baer, we published a lengthy article and sidebar with photos and posted a video of the Baer interview on our website. The video, in particular, sparked dozens of Facebook comments, some of which objected to the fact that we had dedicated the video and so much space in print to Baer. I also received three phone calls from readers who were upset that we had, in their opinion, glorified a monster.

Such a reaction, from an emotional standpoint, is understandable. Baer murdered 26-year-old Cory Clark and 4-year-old daughter Jenna at their Lapel area home on Feb. 25, 2004. It was one of the most heinous crimes in local history.

The intent of our coverage was not to generate sympathy for Baer or even to try to make sense of his atrocities (he was also identified in the aftermath of the double murder as a serial rapist). Our aim, rather, was to relate Baer’s state of mind, the state of his appeal, and the fact that he is considering dropping the appeal.

Reporter Jack Molitor, photographer Don Knight and videographer Andy Knight did an excellent job of addressing these aspects of the story, which was presented in a descriptive but straightforward manner. During the interview process, we attempted to contact the victims’ family to alert them that the story was scheduled for publication and also to ask whether they would be willing to sit for an interview. We did not receive a response and, out of respect for the family, did not hound them with additional requests.

Whatever your position is on the death penalty and the Baer case, the article and video provided new information about a topic of great public importance in Madison County. In the end, Baer’s case will cost the state well more than $1 million, and the pain from his horrible crimes continues, nine years later, to burn. We believe that reporting on developments in the Baer case and giving readers new insight is simply practicing good journalism.

While we regret any emotional trauma the Baer coverage might have generated, we must hold true to our mission of serving our readers by telling important news stories — even the painful ones.

Editor Scott Underwood’s column appears Mondays. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @THBEditor. Contact him at scott.underwood@heraldbulletin.com or 640-4845.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • OPN - HB0802 - hp photo with editorial - SU Editorial: Dan Patch Invitational brings national focus The Dan Patch Invitational at Hoosier Park on Aug. 8 brings some of the best standardbreds into the state and brings the local track into a national spotlight. This is a great chance to support the effort to keep the city on the map and a big crowd helps add to the atmosphere.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Letter: President's trade being swept under rug My question to all, why do we keep hearing after a number of months about the shootings in Colorado, Sandy Hook, etc., but yet the president illegally deals with terrorists, trades five for a believed deserter and now it is being swept under the rug?

    August 1, 2014

  • Letter: New glass ceiling is $12 an hour All those libertarians, tea party, conservatives (dupes of the rich) are leading America's middle class and poor into poverty and depression.

    August 1, 2014

  • Letter: Constitution, laws being trampled Nancy Pelosi said, "When it comes to protecting the children I'm a lioness!" Too bad that doesn't include the babies who are ripped from the womb. How ironic to hear the progressive liberals talk of compassion for illegals while killing our own.

    August 1, 2014

  • Letter: Liberal says 'illegal' should be taboo Did you see where a well-known liberal wants to do away with the "I" word? 'I' as in "illegal."

    August 1, 2014

  • NWS - HB0728 - World War 1 Local Bob Quinn 2 Editorial: WWI commemorated at 100th anniversary On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. There was overwhelming support. Neutrality was no longer an option. The sinking by Germany of the British ocean liner, the Lusitania, further committed Americans to the cause. Madison County answered the call, too.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Viewpoint: Panhandlers give wrong impression of our city First of all, let me start off by saying that I have as much empathy and compassion for those less fortunate as the next person.

    July 31, 2014

  • Editorial: Ring the bell! School is back in session Whether it’s the first first day of school or the last first day of high school, a multitude of unknown obstacles, achievements and milestones await. Enjoy every single one.

    July 30, 2014

  • Editorial: City overzealous in calling for Chamberlain probe In the aftermath of The Herald Bulletin's recent news report that City Councilman Rodney Chamberlain had been cleared of criminal wrongdoing in relation to basketball league funds, one question stands out.

    July 30, 2014

  • OPN - Mootry column mug [Duplicate] [Duplicate] Primus Mootry: The African-American community toward a new narrative African Americans are entirely unique in the annals of American history and, perhaps, the whole history of mankind. This uniqueness demands an African American agenda and, with it, a new narrative, or way of articulating that agenda.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

How many Dan Patch races have you attended?

None
1-2
3 or more
All 20
     View Results