Thoughts on Irresponsible “True Crime” Reporting

Our rubbernecks are leading us down paths of baseless fear.

Anna Mercury


Photo by Casey Allen on Unsplash

On a Friday afternoon in early September, I found out that my best friend was dead. I got the news from a reporter for a local outlet in Albany who emailed me to ask if I wanted to comment. I didn’t, other than telling her to go fuck herself.

I’ve had the great fortune not to find myself adjacent to many “true crime” viral stories, or really much headline news at all, but this year has given me my first bitter taste of being in that position.

As those of you who’ve been keeping up with my writing likely know, my best friend went missing at the end of March under unexplained circumstances. Her body was found at the beginning of September. The cause of death has not yet been released.

When I first got news of her disappearance, I thought immediately that it was a suicide. Now, my thought is that she had a medical emergency. While I’m anxious for us to get the autopsy report, I don’t believe she was murdered. I also don’t think she was stalked — the media’s favorite theory to throw in there at the end of each new article. The police have said from the get-go that there is no evidence of foul play, and while I’m no great believer in the scruples of police departments, I don’t think they have reason to suspect a murderer or serial killer is at large.

I’ve done my fair share of wondering and speculating, going over the details of the situation with friends and family, trying to make answers out of extremely limited information and always coming up short. That being said, my task for the past several months has not been “solving the case.” I’ve been more focused on grieving, holding space for others to grieve, remembering, learning, healing.

Whether she was killed or killed herself, whether it was an accident or an emergency, these will remain my priorities. But reporters on mysterious deaths are not grieving loved ones of the deceased, and their priorities are different.

From the beginning of this long saga, I was surprised and a little disturbed by the number of true crime reporters, both amateur and professional, who jumped on the case.