The Hook Runs an Unusual Apology

Hook reporter Courteney Stuart has published an apology for the tone of her coverage of the murder-suicide on Stony Point last week. The story—revised today—was titled “Dark Designs: Did Satan Play a Role in the Stony Point Murder-Suicide?” The headline played up what appears to be a relatively minor element of the story—that the suspect was a member of an online community of Satanists—and Stuart writes that “the tone of the article, a lack of context, and the original headline were insensitive.” (The facts of the story are not in question.) Complicating things for Stuart and The Hook somewhat, one of the victims was an employee of Hook sister publication, C-Ville Weekly.

This is the first such apology that I can summon to mind in more than a decade of watching local media pretty closely. Apologies for factual mistakes are not uncommon, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a local media outlet say “our facts were right, but we still got this wrong.”

8 thoughts on “The Hook Runs an Unusual Apology”

  1. I thought the apology was warranted. Now if we can only get Nancy Grace to apologize for the sickening sensationalism she’s built a career on…

  2. I think the problem is that media coverage of stories such as this tragedy are overwhelmingly consumed by strangers. Such stories resonate very differently with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. For people who are grieving, the media’s attempts at objective coverage will usually be painful. The only solution I can see is for those who are personally impacted to avoid media coverage as much as possible. In this case, there is overlap between co-workers and the local media establishment creating a situation where pain is likely to be exacerbated. I am sorry for all who are grieving the loss of this family.

  3. I think Gail’s advice is excellent when the coverage is objective, balanced, and non-sensationalistic. I did not feel that was the case with the original story that Courtney Stuart published.

  4. Actually, the C-ville Weekly made a public apology to me on their website in early August for some bad reporting they did. The editor, Graelyn Brashear, acted very professionally in doing this. Entirely to her credit, Ms Brashear did so of her own volition. My friends and colleagues felt that the apology was too tepid, but I was, and still am, appreciative (as is common when one is in a state of shock after getting dumped on). I’d link to it, but with C-ville’s new site, it seems to have disappeared.

    I requested an apology from The Hook’s Courtney Stuart for writing a similar mangled story that same week. She said they’d discuss it with Hawes Spencer and get back to me, but I never received a response. Unfortunately, like most mangled stories, it’s taken on a life of its own and is now assumed to be fact… Google-able “fact.”

    What surprised me in all of this was the Hook reporter’s seeming disinterest in the truth. I’m guessing that there’s a paucity of soul-searching and introspection in the modern journalistic world.

    I have to wonder, though, if someone were to write a news story about her that contained untruths, or dramatically twisted facts, how would she handle it? Would she say “Ah well, that’s a journalist for you! They all lie!” or would she be hopping mad and feel she’d been unfairly treated? A friend of mine, who’s worked in journalism for decades, says they lose their souls after a while and just don’t care about any trails of destruction they leave in their wake. That may be true. I’m happy to report, however, at least Graelyn Brashear proved that theory wrong.

  5. Victoria, I’m glad you mentioned that. Their apology was similar, although as I recall they weren’t apologizing for the tone of the story but, instead, how inappropriate it was that they wrote the thing at all. I remember reading the initial story and thinking “WTF—this wasn’t public,” and felt gratified to see their retraction. I meant to write about it here, but I think I read it as I was getting on a series of cross-country flights to a conference at the Aspen Institute, and by the time I arrived many hours later (luggage lost), I’d forgotten all about it. FWIW, I thought the apology was quite fair and appropriate.

  6. Although they seem to be relying on less newsy items of late, the Hook is still a rag and needs to be treated that way. They publish stories that are personal to them and that is not journalism. I have to admire that Courtney and Lisa have been there a while but the paper’s editorial and journalistic wisdom is very flawed. They make their hypothesis first and then surround the article with facts that match their views leaving the impression that they have told the whole story. Once again, not journalistic integrity. To treat them the same as the Progress or even CVille is supporting laziness and bias, both not a symptom of an acceptable news background or education that Charlottesville expects. i.e. they don’t question the boss enough to score points with me.

  7. I have to agree with you, Mary. For a long time, I wouldn’t even pick up C-Ville Weekly, largely because of The Rant (which is a shame and an embarrassment, IMO, to thinking people everywhere). And I thought the Hook was where the really good investigative journalism, the journalistic service to the public, would be happening. But it’s become clear to me that the Hook (driven by the boss, I assume) is chasing sensationalism wherever it can find it. And by contrast, I read a thoughtful, reflective piece in C-Ville about the Huguely trial that impressed me. What does the community NEED–hastily assembled implications of a Satanist angle on a local tragedy, or thoughtful, thought-provoking commentary? Plus, the Hook seems to live or die on its comment threads, which turn into pure trash pretty quickly.

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