The Plain Truth

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I have read with some puzzlement the criticism of our show for focusing on so many missing people — including Natalee Holloway (search). The criticism does NOT come from the familes of missing people (they are desperate for our help) and it does NOT come from the many police departments we work with on these stories (they are very, very, very grateful for our help.) It comes from some print journalists who would rather throw stones, than help. Their ink and space could be put to better use than criticizing those helping the families and the police. I wish they would help — we have an epidemic.

Much of the criticism got started when Bob Costas (search) declined to guest host for Larry King last week. He declined when the producers planned to do a show on missing persons — I assume Natalee Holloway to be the main topic. I had considered responding to Costas' decision, which was widely reported, with a tongue in cheek remark (e.g. "He only looks for missing golf balls at the 8th hole) but then realized that maybe Bob Costas is not behind this latest skirmish over missing persons shows or segments. Plus, upon reflection, my tongue in cheek thought about Costas is not funny and it is probably wrong to criticize him. I also reminded myself that the bottom line is that the epidemic of missing people is serious and I should not be making jokes about it. It is not funny. It is not funny to the families. Costas is probably a really good guy (I have admired his work for years) and I probably only have half the story — the half the critics write to stir up controversy. I am certain he does realize how important it is to investigate missing persons and that he knows of the power of the media in keeping up the search. I bet his decision not to guest host was not meant to insult the many suffering families or law enforcement agencies working around the clock to find them. I will continue to watch Bob Costas... he seems like a nice guy.

It occurred to me that maybe Bob Costas bowed out of doing the missing persons story on Larry King because he realized he is not experienced in criminal investigations enough to do a missing persons topic show and wanted to take a pass so that he would not do a poor job or an awkward one. There are some stories I would probably not want to do. Since I don't golf, it would be silly for me to do an hour on Tiger Woods (search) in a tournament, or an hour on the Masters (although I do think the fact women are excluded from the Augusta National Golf Club (search) membership is a great topic for me and I think I have done it.)

Maybe Costas thought he would leave missing person segments to those of us who have been in the trenches and actually investigated these case or tried them for years. That makes sense... and, if that is indeed true, now he is being unfairly viewed by some (those who disagree with Costas and who enthusiastically support the media aggressively covering the missing children and adults stories and helping the police.) Maybe the real villains are those who rather throw stones and create controversy where there is none or should be none....

Here is the plain truth: We have a missing persons problem — a giant one. The problem includes adults and children. It is here in the United States and overseas. We can either help or spend our time acting holier than thou ("I would never do such a story... I prefer to do high brow stories" Like what? Character assasination of Judge Roberts for sport? I have seen those swipes at him. He is not my first choice, but he is an able man with a distinguished legal career and yet people want to rip him apart — including checking out his kids' adoption papers! It does not get much dirtier than that! )

I do know that this skirmish over the topic of our show is very hurtful to the many families who are suffering with missing loved ones. They don't want us to back off. I actually talk to the families — do the critics? I also know that the many law enforcement agencies greatly appreciate our help and would be horrified if those of us who cover these stories were intimidated into not doing these segments because there are critics.

As for the editorial writers and columnists who are critical, if you are bored this summer and can't find anything to write about except our programming, give me a call and I will give you a bunch of topics. You don't have to "soil your hands" with such topics as missing children or adults — you can instead investigate whether we give our law enforcement sufficient funds and tools to help stop this growing epidemic. It is a real problem and they need your help.

Yes, I realize we have lots and lots of viewers (called ratings) but we had lots of viewers every night during the first few months of the war in Iraq and the sniper investigation in Washington, D.C. area, too. The reason for our number of viewers is simple: We do our job very well and thus draw many viewers. I don't make excuses for my team's hard work and their success in doing a story well.

I know many naysayers in the print world have dwindling circulation and that our competition has slipped considerably, and I also know that the "oldest trick in the book" is to get ratings or readers by saying "I would never do that story" since by making that statement or writing an editorial about it, you look "clean" in your mind, but you have done the topic. Voila! And it isn't just the print journalists who try this trick. Well, we are on to you.

And, check out this the e-mail I received just hours ago from the brother of missing 727 pilot, Ben Padilla (search), whose disapperance we have been covering from time to time on our show. Ben was on our show last week updating the search for his brother. I did not solicit this e-mail... Joe just happened to send it the day I wrote this blog.

E-mail No. 1

Here is an e-mail I received today about my brother. I want to thank you for having me on your show. I did receive quite a few e-mails from your viewers, some was a few tips.
I watched a tape of the show where I was on and noticed that my speech is getting worse, sorry for that. My Parkinson's is apparently starting to affect my speach when I am upset. I am so sorry for that.
Thank you once again for all your help. I am still at my computer e-mailing all over the world for any help I can get. I will forward the e-mail I just received from the U.S. Embassy in Angola. Of course, no help there.
Take care,
Joe Padilla

I don't know about you, but Joe's note to me inspires us. I would like to help him get information about his missing brother. I bet if you met Joe, you would, too.

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