The stories of Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belchers killing his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins and his subsequent suicide have brought a lot of commentary from readers. And while I hear many differing opinions, a few common threads emerged.
By DEREK DONOVAN
The Kansas City Star
Without question, the No. 1 plea I heard from readers was for The Kansas City Star to focus on Perkins and her loved ones, not Belcher.
One reader who called just hours after the news broke put it plainly: Please tell your editors and reporters that the victim is the most important thing. That should be the same for any time there is a tragedy like this. Always.
Another emailer made a comparison with how The Star lists military deaths inside the A section: Seems you have your priorities mixed up. Mr. Belcher is a very wealthy murderer. Our sympathy goes out to his family, but lets give the men and women who are trying to defend our country some publicity. They are the ones we should be honoring.
I realize some may balk at the notion of equating covering Belcher with honoring him, but thats the way many readers see any and all coverage of anyone known for crimes or other misdeeds.
Of course its a leap to say that all criminals perpetrate their acts for attention, but history is littered with examples of people who embrace their notoriety or admit to having openly sought it.
I spoke to readers who appreciated one of the two Belcher stories on the Dec. 3 front page, which ran under the headline Victims friends dont want her overshadowed. One caller later in the week told me this story was the best piece of journalism The Star had done about the event.
I really dont think you should even ever print (Belchers) name, she said. Just refer to him as the murderer from here on out, and lets keep the Perkins family out in front.
Emailer Joan C. Runion contrasted the story on the front of the Dec. 7 Sports Daily about the memorial service for Perkins with coverage the previous day of Belchers service. That story ran inside the section, but a photo received very similar play on the front to that of Perkins service. KansasCity.com carried a gallery of photos taken from outside Belchers service, which was attended by many Chiefs players and other team personnel.
So, we can do intense stories about the murder/suicide, the 911 tapes in detail, the memorial service for Belcher with pictures on The Stars website (for a murderer absurd), and yet the service for Kasandra Perkins is covered by The Associated Press with one picture, she wrote.
I should add that the Belcher service was in the Kansas City area, while Perkins was in Blue Ridge, Texas. However, The Star often travels to other locations to cover news firsthand, and its clear some readers think that would have been appropriate here.
A few readers told me they thought the Belcher coverage, especially on Page A1 and in the main module at KansasCity.com, was overkill. Thats a rather common complaint about much news concerning crime and celebrities.
However, the Internet makes it very easy to track just how many eyes are on any given page, and The Stars Web editors tell me the various Belcher stories have been among the most popular on the site all year. And despite how distressing the events were, they were still news that needed to be reported.
Not all the feedback was negative. Art Winter singled out The Stars Christine Vendel for her stories tracing the timeline leading up to the shootings: Thorough and carefully written. Attribution everywhere. Old-time journalism school guys like me appreciate that.
A caller last Friday said she read every story from beginning to end, but Im really getting tired of it. We need to let (Perkins) and Kansas City rest and put it behind us.