Editor Jeannine Guttman of the Portland (Maine) Press Herald explains in a column her newspaper’s considerations before publishing a story about a murder suspect who confessed to a reporter.
Reporter David Hench elicited the confession during a 90-minute sitdown with Edward J. Hackett, accused of killing a 21-year-old college student in a case that was highly publicized in New England.
Guttmann wrote, “The confession at the Kennebec County Jail was stunning. I want to explain how Hench got that interview, how he conducted the discussion with Hackett and how the editors decided to present the story.”
She went on:
“The Hackett story was a disturbing one – it was difficult to comprehend, it was hard to read, it was unimaginable on many levels…Through his words, Hackett showed us the enormous tragedy of his crime. The life of a young woman, brimming with potential and a limitless future, came to an abrupt end because his own life was so full of damage, darkness and despair.
“We don’t tell these sorts of stories lightly, or without deep introspection. And when we do offer them to readers, they serve a journalistic purpose.”