What a Tragic Way to Play a Game | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

What a Tragic Way to Play a Game

Not long after we started the JFP, a man who had worked in the public domain in the state for many years warned me about something: "You'll have all sorts of weirdos lining up to tell lies about you." The truth is, there haven't been that many. I'm thrilled at how the entire community, including many people whom I disagree with on some major issues, have opened their arms to the JFP and our truth-telling mission. But there have been a small handful (usually who have been kicked off this site for racist or personal attacks) who will try anything to discredit the JFP. The other night a man at a party who is a fan of the JFP laughed and said, "I hear you have some sort of relationship with Robbie Bell."

Huh? That one came out of left field. But this morning I clicked over to the Ronnie Agnew column about Orley Hood and other employees getting fired to see if they had listed the other names, yet. And I saw this in one of the anonymous comments below it:

The "truths" that Ladd hasn't told you are too numerous to catalog here. Let me pick just one. Has Ladd and the JFP told you the truth yet regarding the coverup of Robbie Bell's reckless actions in the death of Heather Spencer? Has Ladd told you about her personal relationship with Robbie Bell?

Ah, that must be my friend's source. Well, this one is so ridiculous that I had to share it with y'all. Someone, some critic of the JFP has decided to create some mythical "relationship" between me and a woman whose son brutally murdered his girlfriend—a story that my paper led on, including getting hold of police reports from his first beating of her from our sources. (PDFs of police reports linked to that piece.) We also ran a very unattractive mugshot of her when she was arrested for being an accessory and in subsequent stories.

The funny part is, I knew Robbie Bell exactly the way many hundreds of business people in the state know her: she was the administrator of the Mississippi Business Journal's "Leading Businesswoman Award" (along with their "40 under 40," and similar award programs). I have probably been in her presence five times: for three or four events the week of the awards, and I recall running into her at an ArtMix or other Fondren event one time. Oh, and I wrote her once wanting the addresses of the other award winners so I could write them.

My paper gave made her a "Chicks We Love" sometime after I got the awards and had watched her, a model of efficiency, in action during that awards week. Beyond that, I knew nothing about her, her family or that she was even linked to the George Bell carpet folks.

But because someone doesn't like the JFP, or me personally, I have some sort of "personal relationship" with her? This is trash talk, and cheapens a very important story about violence against women.

As far as her "reckless actions" the night of Heather's death, we have heard rumors, but as a news outlets cannot, and do not, report rumors as fact as blogs run by anonymous people do. It's not ethical, and we wouldn't be in business long if we did.

This case has been frustrating in many ways because everyone with first-hand knowledge of the case, and what happened that night, have been told by attorneys not to talk to us until lawsuits are settled. So, to date, we have reported everything we have been able to about the case, which has been more substantial than any other media outlet.

I will say that I personally find the way Heather's first case handled despicable and what looks like pressure on her by her boyfriends' family to drop the case. I believe that had it been taken more seriously by the police, as well as George Bell's friends and family, that Spencer may still be alive. This case has been a major fall from grace for a family and a woman who had a very different public persona that the one we saw in the mugshot that we ran. The whole thing is horribly tragic, but the most so for Heather Spencer, her family and friends.

I also find it truly despicable that anyone would choose such a tragedy to try to use in a dishonest way to attack a media outlet that they do not like. A beautiful woman died in that case; her memory shouldn't be used to play a childish game.

Previous Comments

ID
142256
Comment

I saw that comment this morning. I thought it sounding like either someone with a vendetta or a crazy person. No offense intended to any crazy people!

Author
kudzuking
Date
2008-12-12T13:24:11-06:00
ID
142260
Comment

I know. There are some weird ducks quacking around the metro. But to use this story for some personal vendetta is just horrendous.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-12T14:23:32-06:00
ID
142265
Comment

The right wingnuttia is a serious mental illness. Its sufferers lie so religiously that they even begin to believe their lies and will take them before the Supreme Court and hold press conferences to defend them. It is a very common illness with no known cure.

Author
FreeClif
Date
2008-12-12T15:21:48-06:00
ID
142266
Comment

You should be flattered that someone so ignorant dislikes you so much.

Author
kudzuking
Date
2008-12-12T15:41:51-06:00
ID
142268
Comment

I'm not anything over it, other than disgusted that someone would use a horrible tragedy in such a way. In many ways, you get used to people telling lies about you, but it is odd to see something so far out in left field like that pop up on another site. It's remarkable that people use their time to sit around and make up stuff. But, they do.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-12T15:57:30-06:00
ID
142269
Comment

It's also weird that the Ledger lets anonymous posters accuse people of "cover-ups" and such by name. There's no wonder their site has gone to hell and the comments under the stories gotten so awful. They're attracting the people who get kicked off all the other sites for unsubstantiated attacks. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-12T16:01:23-06:00
ID
142276
Comment

I don't know which is scarier: The possibility that someone would make this stuff up as a smear, or the possibility that someone would actually believe it's true. I'm a little bummed out that it reached the point where you actually had to write an Editor's Note to clear the air.

Author
Tom Head
Date
2008-12-13T01:02:11-06:00
ID
142277
Comment

I usually ignore this kind of thing. But two reasons I addressed this one: It was allowed on the Ledger site and seen by at least one person I respect. And because I believe that using such a horrendous crisis in such a dishonest way deserves to be called out. And it's not an editor's note; just a quick blog post, which is quite different. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-13T09:16:10-06:00
ID
142321
Comment

As my mother used to say, "You must be doing something important if they are talking about you or lying on you" I have been in public meetings when references to JFP, sometimes unkind, have come up. You are making a difference in this town and thanks for staying above the fray.

Author
lanier77
Date
2008-12-16T09:17:13-06:00
ID
142332
Comment

I just saw this, Lanier. Thanks much. ;-) No question: All publicity, regardless of tone or veracity, gets people to read the JFP. I can't tell you how many people have said they came here first because someone criticized us and then found a very different paper than the haters described. As for the haters and liars, the people who do bring them up are usually laughing at them, or shaking their heads at how stupid they are to obsess publicly about a paper they don't want people to read. (Doh.) They can't resist, I guess, and that's been good for us, even when we have to correct outright lies like the one above. But the truth is that our credibility is established through our work, and keeping that as our primary focus is pretty much all we need to do to counter such idiocy. I have noticed that these sorts of people at least try to attack our strengths. Domestic violence is one of the JFP's obsessions, and we're actively trying to both educate people about the seriousness of the topic, as well as do stuff like the Chick Ball every year to raise money to help victims. Thus, it's something they decide to try to turn on us. But, as I said above, even for the Zen state I usually manage about the haters, the fact that some of them would use a horrible domestic-violence murder to try to build some JFP conspiracy over a case we've covered really well is one of the more unconscionable tricks I've seen, yet. I feel sorry for a person who would do such a thing; hateful obsession is blinding, and it's a boomerang.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-12-16T11:51:59-06:00

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