An open letter to viewers about KOB's coverage of Omaree Varela

Updated: 02/06/2014 4:29 PM | Created: 02/06/2014 4:28 PM
By: Michelle Donaldson, News Director, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The death of nine-year-old Omaree Varela, allegedly at the hands of his own mother, has dominated New Mexico newscasts in recent weeks.  What happened to Omaree is more than a personal, family tragedy.  Each day it seems, we learn more about how the systems we trust to protect those who need it failed.  Some viewers have shared with us that the heartbreak of hearing these new details is simply too much to bear.  In response to these understandable feelings, I am moved to explain how we here at KOB Eyewitness News 4 have been making our coverage decisions.

We have not and will not put material on television simply because we can.  We will not exploit the death of a child for shock value or rating points.  We have broadcast very select portions of the previous 911 call from the family’s home, and lapel camera video from a police visit there in June 2013. We have broadcast only those portions that were necessary for understanding of the facts, not the most painful and inflammatory portions. 

We are not just journalists.  We are members of this community, raising families here and building relationships with our neighbors.  We believe the core value of journalism is to inform, inspire and empower with honest information.  In our editorial meetings, we’ve been asking how do we turn this heartache into hope that other kids will get help when they need it?  New Mexico should be a safe place to be a kid.  This story needs to be told, and our mission is to tell it with compassion and a commitment to making the system work better.  KOB Eyewitness News 4 will continue to keep the focus on accountability and solutions.

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