Letter: Article was needless, insensitive and unprofessional

On Saturday, January 26, 2008 the Madera Tribune felt the need to take it upon themselves to publish a revealing, detailed, overly graphic and very unnecessary article surrounding the details of Krista Pike’s death. When I finally picked up the front page the first thing I focused on was the beautiful picture of the 18-year-old victim; perfectly-styled hair, a bright smile on her face. The next thing I noticed, was the large print placed beside it, detailing how she was raped and beaten before finally dying.

The record in my mind ripped and I did about four double-takes. What was wrong with this picture?

As a 14-year-old aspiring forensic investigator, I was shocked at the details of the evidence gathered from the scene and at the disclosure of statements by witnesses and law enforcement. These things are not supposed or allowed to be leaked into the media. But then, I read something else– “The following, based on public documents, details their investigation.” But that just wasn’t right; if these police officers’ notes, the county coroner and investigators’ findings were released as public records by the court, surely a newspaper would not go so far as to publish a blow-by-blow of what happened. Surely they would not be so insensitive to the brutal slaying of a girl barely an adult. Surely they would respect the family and friends of the parties involved.

Sadly, this was not the case.

I read on, becoming more outraged by each sentence I came across which explained in graphic detail images that I’d rather not be made aware of. I stopped reading halfway through the article, feeling disgusted, outraged, and nauseous.

While Mr. John Rieping, may expect a “Job well done!”, a pat on the back and nothing but pure commendation for this “Look Ma– I made the front page!” article, I, as well as many other readers of the Tribune think otherwise. The details surrounding Krista Pike’s death, no matter how much speculation is made by the public, no matter how many murmurs at the water cooler there are about it, is strictly to remain between law enforcement officials and the parties involved in this matter. It’s not only cause for a change of venue, it’s also very unprofessional on Mr. Rieping and the editors’ part.

In most places, if a law enforcement officer opens their mouths and leaks information about a crime scene, motive, suspect, cause of death or anything about a crime before there is a conviction and the case has been tried, this person will lose their job. But these were public records released by the court with their notes and findings which the Tribune felt the need to plaster all over the front page. I think the Tribune’s staff and editors should know something very important: Just because it is public record doesn’t mean it needs to be released to the public.

With an article this detailed about the crime, this leaves room for benefit of the doubt, which could lead to the perpetrators going free. An article this detailed also leaves room to spawn a possible serial killer. Sixty percent of serial killers spawn from previous crimes their family members and/or friends committed initially. Statistics or not, we do not need another grisly murder like this. No one should have to be submitted to the horrible fate Krista Pike was, and no newspaper should ever post something this detailed.

So regardless of how proud the editors and Mr. Rieping may have felt about this article and their detailed coverage of just what exactly happened on January 14, 2008, this article was unnecessary, insensitive and very unprofessional on the part of the newspaper itself. It’s funny– I thought there was some sort of code of ethics journalists were supposed to follow to show sensitivity to these sorts of crimes. I also thought journalists and especially editors should know what they can and should not write about a pending investigation and trial.

Ann Marie Padilla,

13 Comments to "Letter: Article was needless, insensitive and unprofessional"

  1. Ahnna's Gravatar Ahnna
    January 28, 2008 - 9:32 pm | Permalink

    I am writing in regards to the article printed in the January 28, 2008 edition of the Tribune titled “The Anatomy of a Murder.” After reading this piece, I was heartbroken and disturbed.

    The morbid detail in which “Anatomy” was written, along with the insensitivity to the deceased and her family was completely uncalled for, crude, and tasteless. The public has a right to know the facts and the actions being taken; but to embellish every gory detail in depth is repulsive and diminishes the beauty and dignity this young girl possessed… I ask myself at what expense will a newspaper go, to print articles that feed our society’s constant need for vulgar brutality and shock.

    This girl’s family and loved ones do not need their living nightmare splashed across front-page news, divulging every intimate detail of her horrific death. Krista-Rae Pike’s devastating murder is a tragedy that exemplifies the desensitized and debauched nature of our society. She needs to be remembered as the beautiful and innocent young soul she was, and forever will be.

    Ahnna Magnusson

  2. RyanC105's Gravatar RyanC105
    January 29, 2008 - 10:23 am | Permalink

    Although I agree that the article was done in poor taste and very well could have hindered the criminal investigation, as a criminology / psychology major, i will have to disagree with one of the comments made by Ms. Padilla. Serial killers are not made through reading newspaper articles nor is there any support studies that actual show a strong correlation between knowing the gruesome details of a murder scene…if this were true then police officers and investigators would have a higher rate of serial killers than the general population which is simply untrue.

    I agree more with Ms. Magnusson in saying the real victims of such an unethical article would be the family and friends who suffered the entire ordeal again by having their very private matter displayed for the general public. It just shows that just because we have freedom of the press doesn’t give us the right to throw caution and common decency to the wayside.

  3. January 29, 2008 - 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I truly believed that the writer of this story should be suspended without pay or even possibly fired. Doesn’t he know that certain things that were mentioned on the newspaper were suppose to be confidential? He completely over did it.

  4. Sharon Stockdale's Gravatar Sharon Stockdale
    January 29, 2008 - 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I am a firm believer in Freedom of Speech, but still I was shocked to see the article in the Madera Tribune, especially right there above the fold on the front page. I purposely did NOT read it. We may not have any control over what is published in a newspaper, or put on television or a movie screen, but all of us have the right NOT to read it or view it. I for one choose very carefully what I read. And I choose to NOT watch television at all anymore. (The only exception is TCM for old movies.) I rarely go to movies.
    We all have a choice!

  5. JP's Gravatar JP
    January 30, 2008 - 1:02 am | Permalink

    SSSSSS! Too soon! What … is WRONG with the staff and management of the Tribune!? I think you all showed bad taste, bad judgment, and a lack of “knowing your place” in the community by publishing that article. Flogging and flagelation for Mr. Rieping.

    YOU sir (Mr. Rieping), are the WORST kind of cad for even writing this piece in a small community where a lot of people know each other, a significant amount still read a print newspaper (the Tribune), and many were affected by Krista’s passing.

    I’ve stated from the out that I am not a big fan of the Tribune. Your fluff pieces, shoddy proofing, lack of spell-checking, and now even a gross lack of tact and judgment have undermined what could be a nice local publication!

    For my part, I would like to extend my deepest and sincerest apologies to the Pike family. This stunt by the Tribune is NOT indicative of a lot of Maderans, past and present, and NO parent should have to endure what you have. My prayers continue to be with you.

    Finally, back to Mr. Rieping (I just can’t leave this putz alone!) Thanks for upsetting the family and friends once again. Thanks for driving even more readers away from the local rag. Thanks for potentially sullying any prospective jury pool. Thanks for your representation of my hometown, and finally, thanks for your sincere apology ahead of time! (You’d BETTER, along with the rest of the staff at the Tribune, if you want any shot at redemption in the eyes of the people!)

  6. JP's Gravatar JP
    January 30, 2008 - 2:40 am | Permalink

    Earlier, I posted a very scathing commentary regarding Mr. John Rieping at the Madera Tribune, and his (and their) insensitivity and lack of journalistic tact in publishing the story on Krista Pike’s murder. I stand behind every single word.

    Within an hour, the comment was posted by the moderator. Now, a lot of you might not realise this, but Mr. Rieping is also the webmaster for the Tribune, and quite probably the selfsame moderator that allows comments (even comments critical of himself!) to be posted to RedLine. This is the hallmark of a truly non-biased journalist.

    Mr. Rieping, your willingness to pass these comments on to the public’s perusal should be lauded. Now, you need to take this ball across the goal line, and do right by the friends and family of Krista Pike, and the citizenry of Madera by (at least) explaining why you would proceed with such a piece, and issuing an apology in whatever wording you need to convey your thoughts.

    I will also be touching base with Mr. Rieping off-line, but know this; John is a good person at heart, and again should at least be given credit for being journalistically transparent and open to criticism.

    + + +

    Webmaster’s reply: “JP” is correct that the only moderator of this Web site is the same person who wrote much of the article on the investigation of the murder of the late Krista Pike.

    But he is incorrect when he describes me as an impartial journalist — at least in the matter of Krista Pike and her murder. Throughout our newspaper’s coverage I have been deeply upset and grieved by the murder. I initially created the “Krista Pike remembered” page on this Red Line blog as much as an expression of my own feelings as to aid the two geographically-distant communities of Madera and Placerville/Pollock Pines in grieving. Each one of the more than 70 comments you see on that page was read and approved by me and I have reacted as, I hope, everyone else has to the heartfelt outpourings of mourning found there. In writing every article on this matter I have been, personally-speaking, emotionally overwhelmed and in journalistic territory beyond my past experience or comfort. …

    If anyone wishes to discover my personal sentiments specifically on Saturday’s article I will freely share them personally, but not in my official capacity as an employee of The Madera Tribune.

  7. D.W.'s Gravatar D.W.
    January 30, 2008 - 6:54 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree with others on the Tribune’s lack of judgment in printing the details of Miss Pike’s murder.

    I also would question the person who gave out those details. The family is seeking justice through the courts…how will this type of reporting help them?

    For some years the city, county and some of our schools in Madera are often referred to as a backwoods joke … and a good ol’ boys town. I was shocked that our newspaper, which should have taken the high moral journalistic road on reporting this poor girl’s death, has now fallen into the same group as above.

  8. concerned resident's Gravatar concerned resident
    January 31, 2008 - 6:51 pm | Permalink

    There is a lot of ignorance on both sides concerning this issue. I will just leave it at that and let you guess what I’m talking about.

  9. Jennifer's Gravatar Jennifer
    February 4, 2008 - 2:29 pm | Permalink

    The article that was posted in the paper on Jan.26 was so insensitive, so demeaning, to Krista’s friends and to our family(s). How dare The Madera Tribune print such things. Its bad enough that our families have to remember the pain that we went through but to print an article that painted images in the friends’ minds. They should have remembered her as a beautiful, laughing, caring person.

    I don’t think that the ”writer” of that ”story” realizes that there are families that are hurting and trying their best to remember her as she was before this happened. The editor should be ashamed to have let out such a ”story.”

    I am so glad that I don’t subscribe to The Madera Tribune. I am glad that I don’t waste my money on people who can care less about families and the pain that they are going through. If the ”writer” of that article could have seen my brother as he read that article the ”writer” maybe would have seen the pain he caused and then maybe he could have grown a heart. To him I guess, a ”story is just a story.”

    I can not thank everyone enough from the bottom of my heart for ripping into the ”writer and editor” the way you did. Thank you again. Lets just all forget what was written in the paper and remember our beloved Krista-Rae Pike the way she was when she was still with us on earth. Thank you again for all the comments and defense.

    With love from Krista’s sister-in-law.

  10. JP's Gravatar JP
    February 4, 2008 - 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Late last week, I had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to sit and speak with the managing editor of The Madera Tribune, regarding this article. Our discussion, while candid, was also friendly and enlightening.

    Many at the Tribune have strong feelings regarding this story, it’s background, and it’s unfolding events. It is my observation that the article was written both as an informative piece, and also as a “wake up” call to the residents of the Madera area, as well as the surrounding Central Valley, in that these things ARE happening here, and need to be addressed.

    While I personally feel that the Tribune should remit an apology for the extent of some details within the article, my opinion has changed as to the overall need for a blanket “mea culpa” for publishing the piece. This article was written out of a desperate desire to draw the public’s attention to the situation, was composed with emotion, and published not out of maliciousness, but out of an acute sense of duty on the part of Mr. Rieping, his managing editor, and the publisher of the paper.

    In short, yes, after having the opportunity to get the “inside story” on the writing of the piece, my position has changed. If some people’s sensibilities were offended by the content of the article, I can assure you that this was not the intent of the paper…

    IMHO, what needs to happen now is everyone take a step back, and reflect on everything that has come out of this unfortunate series of events. Take time to digest things, then resume the discourse in a meaningful way…

  11. Ann Padilla's Gravatar Ann Padilla
    February 5, 2008 - 7:32 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry to those who believe otherwise, but I don’t believe that for one second the article was purely published out of the newspaper’s desire to draw “desperate attention to the situation”. How much more attention did the situation need? It was on the news, in the papers already, the town was abuzz with the details of the horrific crime. I feel this article was desperate in the sense that it was published out of the desperate need to sell papers and make the front page, not draw attention to this crime.

    The public already had been drawn in by this situation, actually it was quite impossible not to be. And by the newspaper’s really pathetic attempt at trying to sell a few more papers and get people’s attention, they have possibly hindered the criminal investigation. That’s not trying to get the people’s attention. They got the people’s attention the second the police cars were dispatched to the crime scene and cars driving by were asking “What happened?” and “What’s going on?” to the passengers in the front seat.

    I also don’t believe Mr. Rieping when he says he was deeply disturbed and grieved by the murder. If someone were truly disturbed and grieved by it, they would not include the horrific details of the crime he did in his article. They would want– as everyone has stated– to have the public remember Krista Pike as a valued member of the community and a young woman with her entire life ahead of her. That, Mr. Rieping, is the sort of the attention you should have been trying to draw the public to.

    Webmaster’s note: You have confused my intentions with those of my managing editor but we are not the same person. You are also mistaken in doubting my sincerity and honesty. But you are not the only one who makes mistakes. I am well aware that I do so too.

  12. George Oliver Douglas's Gravatar George Oliver Douglas
    February 8, 2008 - 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Rieping, your article about the murder is exactly something that I would expect from someone like you that lost your faith and walked away from his commitment to God.

    Webmaster’s note: You’re mistaken. I have not lost my faith nor did I abandon my commitment to God. If you wish to discuss or debate my authenticity as a Christian or Catholic this is not the place for it.

  13. Revived's Gravatar Revived
    November 4, 2008 - 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Its funny how people can focus on the unimportance of a printed news paper article on a horrific murder. The media, what a powerful tool for anyone to use. How do we build oppinions but that of what we are told and shown byu the media. I am sure if you were all there at the scene of the crime your opinions would differ!

    DO NOT FORGET, a young woman was MURDERED. I for one, who have had a sibling murdered in cold blood, feel it is very necessary for the details of said crime to be revealed to the public.

    Two people conspiered to kill another human being, and you all are bickering about the media’s release of information. By personal experience I can assure you all that the media does go to far in some cases, they may intrude on the lives of those that do not want it. But the young woman will be remebered in the lives of her family, the thoughts of her friends and the outcome of this trial.

    I knew nothing about this case, but when you read about the brutality of the murder a clear picture is posted of the murderer. I’m sure when that young man who aspires to grows up to be a forensic investigator does in fact grow up, he will find that the world is can be an ugly place, and would he rather live in the fabricated existance of his own reality, or is he going to truely grow and and investigate brutal crimes such as this?

    Justice cannot be swayed, but those who vow to defend it, can be given a clear view of those who infringe upon it.

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