Here we are. We've been here a week.
We had two goals when we set out: to ensure Beth's story wasn't forgotten and to help police solve the case. With more than 1.5 million downloads to date, I feel comfortable we've accomplished one of the two. Now I'm setting my sights on goal No. 2.
It's been interesting hearing the response. Some people love the series, as evidenced by the plays and the tweets and the Facebook messages I've received. I can't even keep up with all the notes, so apologies if you've sent one and I haven't responded yet. Know that I read them, but that I simply get overwhelmed so some of them are being catalogued for the short-term.
There of course has been criticism as well -- that I'm too aggressive, that we're exploiting Beth's story. I take it in because it's interesting and insightful. Yeah, I'm aggressive. It's my job, and I'm pretty good at it. Not perfect, mind you, but pretty good. And, yes, I'd even agree that we're exploiting Beth's story, but we're doing so to help highlight how a system that gets tunnel vision helps no one. But I hope that doesn't sound defensive, because I really appreciate the feedback. I didn't do anything differently on this reporting project than I'd do on one for print, so I usually only get feedback on the process from sources. I'm self-reflective enough for this to have been really cool to hear how I come across to strangers, for better and worse. That said, I wouldn't do much differently next time. Beth's story deserved to be heard -- read by some: exploited -- to expose problems within a system, and I'm a journalist because I push for answers. That's what I do. "News is something somebody doesn't want printed; all else is advertising," said William Randolph Hearst (a version of which is sometimes credited to George Orwell). If someone doesn't want it printed, it should go without saying that journalists wanting to write news sometimes are pulling info from less-than-willing sources. Accused is simply transparent about that process.
We're being asked a lot whether we plan another season. We're not sure yet as we're just now coming up for air after this one. We're also making a point to catalogue all of the incoming tips and suggestions so that hopefully there's an Ep9 on Beth's story. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Meanwhile, I'd like to send a big thanks to the crime pods that came before us. I hadn't listened to many of them before we recorded ours, to be honest -- I didn't want to be too influenced in how we rolled out our story, so a lot of my podcast research was in different genres (shout out to "How Did This Get Made" and "You Must Remember This," two of my staples). But now that mine is done, I've explored "In the Dark," "Criminal" and "Someone Knows Something." I recognized a lot of my own experience as a reporter with the latter especially -- feeling like shit sometimes, worrying about opening old wounds, questioning my reasons for being drawn to the case to begin with. I'm grateful these podcasts exist and that they seem to be created by kindred, truth-seeking spirits.
My hope for them is the same as my hope for ours: May we all help solve the cases we cover. Anyone who's spent time with the victims' families know they deserve that much.
Just three weeks ago, my podcast "Accused: The Unsolved Murder of Elizabeth Andes" debuted. On Thursday, the finale for the eight-episode endeavor went live.
It's been a hell of a month. My producer Amanda Rossmann and I have worked an insane number of hours, not only on the transcripts and promotion and teaser videos, but also on components of a special section to be released Sunday, Oct. 2. Amanda right now is sitting across from me working on a video for the project, trying to figure out how to condense dozens of hours of footage down to about 10 minutes for a newspaper audience.
Today has been especially gratifying because "Accused" climbed to No. 2 on the iTunes' podcast chart nationwide. That's across all categories.
I remember one colleague about six months ago quipping about how much time we were spending on a podcast that would likely have just 50 listens. Well, today we're cruising past the 500,000 mark on Soundcloud.
To read more about today's milestone, click here.
I don't write this to crow. In fact, I probably write this more out of sheer exhaustion than anything else. But I'm also writing from a place of gratitude: Thank you to my bosses at The Enquirer for believing in this and giving us the time to do it properly. Thank you to the Andes family for entrusting us to tell Beth's story. Thank you to Bob Young for never once asking us to omit anything or otherwise try to sway our coverage -- even knowing that we could very well have come to the same conclusion that prosecutors did all those years ago. Finally, big thanks to Debbie Lydon for recognizing that involving a newspaper might help further the case. Without that initial contact, we never would have done this.
I'll quit with the sappiness now. Every now and then, it's important to acknowledge how grateful you are. This is one of those moments for me.
To learn more about "Accused," please go to Cincinnati.com/AccusedPodcast.
I haven't had my name much in the newspaper lately, and there's a reason. That reason was unveiled today.
On Sept. 8, The Enquirer is debuting what I've been working on for the past year with Amanda Rossmann.
I'm proud of it. I can't articulate how relieved I am it's almost out there -- and how anxious I am for people to hear it. I hope it does what I think it has the potential to do.
To learn more: http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2016/08/27/introducing-accused-podcast-unsolved-murder-elizabeth-andes/89396140/
It's always a strange experience as a journalist to be asked to talk about yourself. Sure, I've written plenty of first-person accounts in the form of travel stories and such, but that's still working in the medium with which I'm most comfortable: writing. Speaking is another matter entirely.
Still, I was surprised to have had a blast -- speaking flubs and all -- while delivering a TEDx Talk through Cincinnati's Xavier University in April. It was a great experience, and I've received wonderful feedback on the message overall. Bottom line: Journalists get lied to a lot. Your best bet is to assume no one's telling you the truth, ever.
My latest story for Cincinnati.com highlights the real-life impact that an Ohio law change that unseals adoption records is having on families nationwide.
Through the story, I got to meet Brad Watts, who was put up for adoption in 1975. For four decades, he wondered about his biological family, and, thanks to the law change, in 2015 he got to meet his mother, his father and a whole slew of siblings he never dreamed he'd have. Here's the story: http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2016/01/07/unsealed-adoption-records-reunite-families/77383544_/.
The story was picked up and cited by People magazine as well.
Originally published at authoramberhunt.com.
The start of this week was a whirlwind of press conferences, photo opportunities and historic court arguments for me as I covered the Supreme Court in action for the first time.
I’ve been a full-time reporter since 1999, and while my career has led me to Instanbul and Tokyo and Paris and Belize, I’d never been to our nation’s Capitol, much less granted a seat for one of the most historic high court arguments of the generation. I was there Tuesday, April 28, as the justices listened to arguments on both sides of the historic Obergefell v. Hodges same-sex marriage case.
Here are five lessons I’m taking home from the experience:
• Media have the worst seats in the house. I’d been warned that I’d likely have a tough time seeing the justices, but it turned out, that was an understatement. Most reporters lucky enough to land spots inside Supreme Court arguments are seated behind no fewer than three impressive obstructions: gorgeous marble columns adorning the 1935-built structure; theatrical ceiling-to-floor curtains that, while tied back, still partially block the view; and an ornate golden divider that ensures that if you were somehow fortunate enough to avoid the first two obstructions, your view still hinges on your ability to peer through decorative cutouts.
You’re also not allowed to move much, and standing to stretch is also a no-no. Of course, those rules flew out the window, albeit briefly, when a protester disrupted the hearing.
• Hearing is pretty tricky, too. While some of the justices’ voices were blessedly clear, you ran the risk of misidentifying them because you couldn’t see who was speaking. (I’d listened to the Windsor case in the morning in hopes of familiarizing myself with their voices, but there were too many similarities for me to become an expert in short order.) Most of us reporters looked around like confused toddlers until someone with more behind-the-curtains experience clued us in on the likely talker.
Oh, and fun fact: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has the easiest voice to recognize, but she’s arguably the hardest to understand. She projects as though she’s talking into a bolt of wool. If it weren’t for the quick turnaround on the audio and transcripts uploaded online, most of us would have easily messed up half of the quotes.
• Some protesting is heartfelt, but some seems more like theater. On Monday, the demonstrations were largely civil. Sure, some gay-rights activists tried to drown out the bullhorns of traditional marriage advocates by singing, “All we are saying, is give love a chance.” And, yes, those in support of Biblical marriage did condemn gays and lesbians to hell. But whatever tension arose then was nothing compared to the theatrics of Tuesday, which seemed to bring out those who were more interested in getting on TV than they were in supporting a cause.
The Enquirer opted not to show all of the protesters’ signs because the language on some got pretty raw. It would be easy to zero in on those protesters for the shock value, but it wouldn’t have been a true representation of those who started showing up as early as Friday for the Tuesday hearing. In short, the extremists on either side didn’t seem to be there for the cause as much as they were for the photo op.
• Supreme Court security guards don’t seem keen on breastfeeding in public. One of the Cincinnati mothers in the Henry v. Hodges case sat quietly on the steps Monday evening, discreetly breastfeeding her 10-month-old daughter. A security guard who spotted her snapped, “You are not doing that here.” Surprised, the woman stopped and pulled out a pouch of baby food instead.
On the surface, it might seem a no-brainer to refrain from breastfeeding outside the nation’s highest court, but the scene around her wasn’t exactly one of heightened decorum: Nearby, protesters supported traditional marriage by yelling through a bullhorn about “natural law” and condemning gays and lesbians to hell. They also preached about the importance of doing what’s best for children.
After I returned home, I learned that the guard who booted the mom wasn’t obeying the law, which allows women to breastfeed on federal property. Had I known then what I know now, I would have happily gotten a little uppity with him in pointing out his error.
• It was really, really cool. Our coverage of the historic case wasn’t the best-read thing I’ve ever written. In fact, it was drowned out Monday by a colleague’s story of an Over-the-Rhine restaurant naming a hot dog special after Bruce Jenner, who recently announced that he is a transgender woman.
But, hey, we live in a world where kitten videos reign supreme. That doesn’t diminish the fact that I was on the Supreme Court steps, and inside its hallowed halls, as a witness to history. I don’t know for certain what June’s expected ruling will be, but I do know this much: I was there, I saw more than most, I heard more than many, and I learned a few things along the way.
All in all, not a bad way to spend the week.
(To read my news stories of the coverage, go here: http://tinyurl.com/ssm-coverage)
Originally posted at cincinnati.com.
A few years ago, had you flashed a photo before me of each Kennedy wife in her prime, I would have been able to identify her in basic terms: Rose the matriarch, Ethel the devoted widow, Jackie the fashionista, Joan the troubled beauty, Vicki the second wife.
But the Kennedy fascination eventually took hold of David Batcher, my coauthor, and me, and as we researched The Kennedy Women: Triumph and Tragedy in America’s Most Public Family (Lyons Press, $26.95), we learned some tidbits we found surprising. Here are six fun facts:
1. Ethel almost became a nun. It’s hard to imagine a woman who ultimately gave birth to 11 children having once considered a life of celibacy, but Ethel hesitated when Robert F. Kennedy proposed to her. Though she was wild and free spirited, she was as devout in her Catholicism as they come. “How can I fight God?” Bobby had asked his sister Jean. Ultimately, the gentle Nazarene was no match for JFK’s brooding little brother.
2. A young Jackie watched her parents’ divorce play out on the front pages of the newspapers. Jackie’s father, the dashing “Black Jack” Bouvier, was a serial philanderer. This hurt her mother, Janet, but the final straw came in 1936, when theNew York Daily News published a photo of Black Jack and Janet in which, just out of Janet’s sight line, Jack held the hand of his mistress. Things got uglier from there. By the time the divorce was final, in June 1940, Jackie, then only 10 years old, had developed her lifelong distrust of the media and an obsession with privacy in family matters.
3. Joan campaigned – and won the election – for her husband in 1964. Despite constantly being referred to as “radiant” and “beautiful” in newspaper stories about her, Joan always felt a bit insecure. In fact, she described herself as a shy loner. Then, seven months after JFK was killed in Dallas, a small plane carrying Joan’s husband, Teddy, on a campaign trip crashed, killing the pilot and a campaign aide. Teddy escaped with his life, but narrowly, with his broken back laying him up for months. That meant no campaigning to keep his Senate seat, prompting Joan to step forward and campaign on her husband’s behalf. It was her finest hour as a Kennedy wife, and Teddy handily won re-election.
4. Rose believed that a mother should spend at least one day a week with her children. And she thought this was generous. With nine children (the first five born within six years), the woman who birthed JFK approached motherhood as the management of an enterprise. She kept detailed notes about their doctors’ visits and growth milestones. Less of an emphasis was put on spending quality time with her brood. A mother instilled values, beliefs and habits in a child, but Rose believed that much of the daily care could be outsourced. Still, she applauded herself for not leaving the child-rearing entirely up to hired help. “If a mother never takes care of her children, she really has no first-hand knowledge of what the nurse is doing,” she once wrote.
5. Vicki fought with doctors to ensure Ted Kennedy could speak at the Democratic National Convention. After Ted was diagnosed in early 2008 with a malignant brain tumor, Vicki became his most vocal advocate. She helped him prepare for weeks to give a speech at his party’s convention in August 2008, only to have his appearance threatened last minute not by the disease, but by a kidney stone. Vicki agreed to let doctors give her husband one dose of a potent pain medication that would have interfered with his speech-giving abilities, then was furious when a nurse gave a second dose without permission. Despite the pain meds, Ted managed – with Vicki at his side – to stand before the cheering delegates and give his final convention speech.
6. Ethel knew how to party. It’s hard to imagine a presidential candidate today having a wife known for throwing raucous parties that led to police calls, but that’s how Ethel rolled. While she and Bobby lived at their Hickory Hills estate during his attorney general and Senate years, Ethel threw wild shindigs that ended with luminaries like historian Arthur M. Schlesinger being tossed into the pool.