Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Missouri Weeklies That Broke 'MySpace Suicide' Story Still Won't Name Alleged 'Cyberbully'

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Missouri Weeklies That Broke 'MySpace Suicide' Story Still Won't Name Alleged 'Cyberbully'

Article excerpt

The suburban St. Louis weeklies that broke the tragic story of 13-year-old Megan Meier, who killed herself after a MySpace relationship went sour, have received weeks of criticism for not naming the neighbor who apparently orchestrated an online deception that led to the suicide.

And although national news outlets from Fox News to The New York Times have since revealed the identity of Lori Drew who apparently posed as a teen boy online and harassed Meier with insults until her death, the St. Charles Journals of St. Peters, Mo., remain firm in their decision not to identify her.

"We are sticking with it because the things that helped us make our decision haven't changed," Dave Bundy, editorial director of the newspaper group that includes several community papers owned by Lee Enterprises, told E&P today. "We were concerned about the daughter [of Drew] and to what extent she was involved and dragged along with this."

Steve Pokin, the Journal reporter who first broke the story in a lengthy piece that ran on Nov. 11, echoed that view: "She is not being accused in a court of law, she is not being sued and our take is that we don't run suspects unless charges are filed."

Pokin says he has since written at least six stories updating the case, but has still not named the alleged hoaxer while also responding to growing requests for interviews.

"There are enough details for people to find out who it is on their own," Pokin, a 30-year newspaper veteran, says. As for critics of his actions, "they are free to do so. It was a judgment call. I think there were a lot of other issues at stake."

Pokin's initial story told the odd tale of how Meier had gotten involved in an online relationship through more than a year ago, corresponding via e-mail with someone named Josh Evans, a 16-year-old boy.

After several weeks of apparently friendly e-mails, the boy sent Meier an e-mail in October 2006 saying he did not want to be friends with her anymore, adding the comments: "The world would be a better place without you."

Later that same day, Meier hung herself in her closet. In the coming weeks, Meier's parents learned that Evans never existed and had been the creation of Drew, a 47-year-old neighbor whose own teen daughter had been friends with Meier. …

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