What is Style magazine?
That cut-to-the-chase question was posed to us after we featured convicted killer Marie Dean Arrington on the cover of the July edition.
After all, our stated mission is to be up-to-date, entertaining, thought-provoking, trendy and representative of the people and places that make Lake and Sumter counties special.
You expect to see smiling people and tail-wagging dogs on the cover of Style. A cover story about the most notorious criminal in Lake County history was a big-time departure from our norm.
Style is upbeat. Convicted killers are downers.
They may also be thought-provoking. Especially when the convict reveals “new information” — and when an investigation of records retained by judicial and law enforcement agencies confirms aspects of that “new information.”
Everyone who remembers the case was certain Arrington was convicted by overwhelming evidence.
The truth: There was no proof Arrington committed murder. No hair, no blood, no fingerprints, no fibers connecting Arrington and the victim.
Does that bother you? Would it bother you if a relative were convicted under those circumstances?
Would you object if a magazine — any magazine — published an expose about lying witnesses, accomplices who escaped arrest, inconclusive evidence and questionable evidence in your relative’s case?
Should we have deep-sixed the story of Leesburg’s Crime of the Century because Marie Arrington was a career criminal … or you were certain the evidence against her was overwhelming?
Some people felt we climbed into the gutter, showed poor taste and sacrificed ethics for sensationalism. A relative of the victim stated her hope that I “rot in hell alongside Marie Arrington.”
A gentler soul chided us for failing to notify the victim’s surviving children that we were going to rehash their worst nightmare.
Perhaps we should have. But in the 40 years I’ve been writing, I’ve never seen a journalist call someone and say, “We’re about to run a story you’re not going to like.” Maybe it’s time to adopt such a policy.
We hit a nerve. It wasn’t our intent, but we did.
I regret I upset some upstanding members of our community. I hate hurting people. But the story needed to be told.
And yes, it was our place to tell it.
It not only was our place to publish Leesburg’s Crime of the Century, it was our obligation.
So we are putting you on notice here and now. We will publish more stories some people may object to. Stories about homeless people, sinkholes, human trafficking, tainted water, depression and dysfunctional families.
We will tell stories that need to be told.
Our primary focus will always be on the people, places and things that make our communities great places to live. But we won’t shy away from the big stories.
That’s because truth is always in Style. Even when it hurts.