Over Labor Day weekend, a relatively quiet tourist community was transformed into the site of a chilling, multiple-victim slaying. Three women were shot and dismembered; the body of a fourth victim, a man, was burned. The Portland Press Herald dispatched a team of reporters to cover the story in as sober and comprehensive a manner as possible.
From on-the-street interviews with residents to profiles of the dead to a graphic chronology of the killings, the team of journalists probed the slayings from a variety of angles. This solid foundation created fertile ground for follow-up stories.
Judges cited the Portland Press Herald for maximizing “the event’s potentials by taking a thorough approach to covering the town’s ‘grisliest killings’ in years. … And all this coverage within a day’s publication cycle of the paper.” The judges also noted the “absence of tempting sensationalism in this coverage.”
Said Andrew Russell, city editor: “Deadline reporting is the ultimate test for a newsroom and is one of the best indicators of a quality journalistic organization.”
At the time of the killings, the Portland Press Herald was without a managing editor and a features editor; reporters and editors were scattered around the newsroom in different roles.
Another challenge of the story, according to public safety reporter David Hench, was “approaching those people who have suffered, trying to be sensitive to their anguish while coaxing them to share their insights for the benefit of the broader community.”
Courts reporter Gregory Kesich said the overall task was “to make sense of an inexplicable event. … We didn’t answer everything, but we gave readers as many answers as we could, and gave them a sense of humanity of both the victims and the perpetrator.”