The story of a yet to be identified child’s body being found Oct. 20 washed ashore on Galveston Island is enough to touch anyone on a human level.
Disturbed is probably the best word to describe what most of us feel. “Little Jacob,” as the child has been named, is a mystery frustrating police and others who simply want to move the investigation forward.
Investigators this week disclosed that the child had not drowned. They didn’t disclose the cause of death, but the obvious implication is that the child was killed and placed in the water about two days before it was recovered from the beach. This is a particularly heinous crime.
Earlier this week, local police took an unusual step of releasing a postmortem photograph of the child’s face.
When authorities reached out to The Daily News and other organizations, they knew the photo was impactful and difficult for many to see. But they also felt that this unusual step might bring them closer to a break in the long and challenging investigation.
The Daily News found itself making a decision not clearly evident to the outside world.
Many may not realize it, but we generally do not run photos of deceased individuals in our newspaper. A human life and the dignity attached is something we deeply respect. Sensationalism can stay in the tabloids and social media world for all we care. We believe our readers and community deserve only the most thoughtful and respectful of decisions.
This situation, however, presented something highly unusual and compelling. The police, by reaching out to The Daily News, knew sharing the image with the large readership across the country, might help bring a tip or clue.
Daily News leaders huddled to better understand how to best serve both our readers and the need to help bring potential closure to this terrible crime.
The Daily News decided to help serve both our long-term respect for individual’s dignity and hopefully play a role in the police’s continued efforts to solve the terrible crime. We chose to lead with the story in our print edition without the graphic photo. We didn’t want people flipping through the paper to encounter it without fair warning. We saw no way to effectively warn readers about the photo in the print edition.
We instead informed readers they could visit our digital edition, galvnews.com, to view the photo and included content warnings in both the print and digital editions. A preview slide warned people the photo was there and was disturbing before they got to it.
With over 1.4 million visitors per month, we knew carefully presenting the photo on our digital arm would and could reach a significant audience. We also knew by reserving the photo from our print product allowed print subscribers to seek out the photo via our digital arm in which they have free access.
We had a good amount of discussion about how to best serve our readers and the human need of helping move the investigation forward.
In the end, we believe we made the right decision with respect for our readers, the police, and the young boy we only know as “Little Jacob.”
May God rest his soul and we pray this unusual step by authorities will help bring closure and justice to this terrible crime in our community.
• Leonard Woolsey