A little over a week ago, as 3-year-old Arabella Parker lay dying from the injuries sustained in an October beating, members of The Daily Item news team gathered to discuss our next steps in reporting this tragedy.
Reporter Francis Scarcella had been doing a great job with his almost daily updates on Arabella’s condition and the arrests surrounding the crime. Francis had developed a trusting relationship with family members and was able to get frequent updates through them.
He continued to do so through Arabella’s untimely death on Nov. 22, and again Tuesday with the homicide charges filed against Jahrid Burgess and Samantha Delcamp.
A big part of our jobs, though, is to go beyond reporting the daily who, what and when details and to investigate the how and the why.
Moving forward with this story, we knew we needed to make sure we reported everything that was knowable from existing public records.
Then, we could move on to seeking the facts that, due to privacy laws and exceptions to open record statutes, would be more difficult to uncover.
Our ultimate goal was and remains to learn how and why this could have happened.
Francis and fellow Daily Item reporter Eric Scicchitano began the investigative process by spending hours acquiring and diving into hundreds of pages of court documents. Between Tuesday and right up to publication for Sunday’s print edition, the two continued to parse the records for details, while editors worked behind them to ensure accuracy and clarity.
The result was a thorough report of what they learned from those court records that appeared on our digital platforms on Saturday evening and on our front print page on Sunday.
It was an impressive job of reporting over a short period of time. Some officials involved in the case have said we reported details they had not yet come across.
We have just begun.
I am blessed here with a reporting team that isn’t satisfied with reporting the routine. We will work to gain access to further records and do whatever we can to get the answers to how and why Arabella died.
We do this because we know it is important — not just for this case, for the many other cases of child abuse that are sadly a part of the landscape here and elsewhere.
We can do it because of the talent and commitment of the people who work here. Thankfully, our parent company, CNHI, sees and values the importance of providing you with strong local news content.
Many other community newspapers no longer have the resources needed to do that.
Gannett and GateHouse, until recently the nation’s two major newspaper companies, are now one. Many former colleagues from my nearly 38 years with Gannett are worried about what will happen next. There’s little doubt the combined company will have to cut staff to make the combined business viable.
Any cuts to reporting and editing teams there will only add to the innumerable job losses over the past decade across this industry.
As you read our reporting on the Arabella Parker death and on other important local issues, please know that we can’t do it without your support — as readers and subscribers.
We want to continue to be here to tell these important stories.
We won’t be able to do that in the long term if readers don’t step up and help make it financially possible.