It’s hard to find the proper words to describe the heinous crime that took place over the weekend, leaving a woman dead and a man in the Coffee County Jail facing charges of first degree murder.
Lisa Jones McCoy was undoubtedly a mother, a daughter, a niece, a cousin and a friend to many. Reporting the details of her death is not relished by anyone. But for the sake of transparency and trust – that reporting is necessary.
On our website Sunday, our staff made the decision to include graphic details as told by the district attorney and public documents obtained by the Times. This decision does not come without thought, despite the claims by some on social media that the newspaper was out for “sensationalism” and “clicks” to the website.
That simply is not how this works.
I understand the impulse to start pointing the finger and blaming the media during emotional moments. But rationalizing the situation, it should be understood that the newspaper is serving its purpose as a leader in the community during a time when it’s not easy to do so. Sometimes the news is hard to do.
It is our job to not only report facts, but to help clarify rumors. The gruesome details surrounding the death of Lisa Jones McCoy were beginning to not only run rampant before our reporting was released, but the details were becoming sensationalized on their own. With social media, one only needs a smartphone or a keyboard and Wi-Fi so disseminate inaccurate information. By choosing to report the facts as provided to us, the newspaper helps to clarify information already circulating in the public and to squash rumors that may be misguided and untrue. It is our job to not shy away from those details.
Unfortunately, not publishing such details would only lead to questions about the integrity and truth in reporting for not only this story, but for future stories and past stories alike.
Not publishing the truth will not change the hurt for the family and friends of this tragedy, nor will it protect them. These court documents will be published by the regional TV stations, the court hearings will certainly reveal the investigative facts in far more gruesome detail.
So with that, the only option we are left with is the correct one – to report this unfortunate story with all of the integrity and awareness that it deserves.
–Josh Peterson is the publisher of the Manchester Times. He is a Tennessee Press Association award-winning writer and photographer. His column, “From the publisher’s desk” won TPA first-place honors for best personal humor column and best personal column. The National Newspaper Association named him “Top 30 Under 30” of newspaper professionals in 2016 and Editor & Publisher named him Top 25 Under 35 in 2017. He can be reached by email email@example.com or by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105. Follow him on Twitter @joshpeterson29