Today: The Truth & Nothing But the Truth About The Don Harman Reporting

Let’s take it from the top, good, bad and ugly…

As reported first last week on KC Confidential, deceased Fox 4 meteorologist Don Harman suffered from depression. And he took his own life.

But like many sudden, dramatic news events, Harman’s death was shrouded in secrecy and rumors abounded as to why and how he killed himself. Was there a note? Concerned, interested viewers and fans wanted to know more.

In the good, old days at the Kansas City Star, the newspaper could sit on breaking news stories too complex for television news to scoop them on. Pretty much anything besides murder, fires and petty consumer fraud.

And that’s exactly what the Star‘s Aaron Barnhart did in Harman’s case. Barnhart didn’t slide across home plate with a War & Peace version of what had happened until nearly 10 p.m. after the stadium had emptied.

That’s still how the Star prefers to play the game when they can get away with it.

Get the details hashed out – checked and rechecked – then spit out a buttoned down narrative, taking every precaution not to offend or incite…anyone. They call it news reporting and it is, but it’s reporting at a snail’s pace which is not the pace today’s world tends to operate at.

But Barnhart’s lengthy Star story was still missing the answers to two questions everybody wanted to know. He was late but OK with the depression angle, but the questions of how and was there a note went unanswered.

Now let’s look how stories like this often play on the national stage.

Say Anna Nicole Smith or Michael Jackson checks out – Joplin gets shmushed by a tornado or something – instantly CNN and other news outlets are pounding on the story, detail by detail. Nevermind that the first wave – or two or three – of news is to whatever extent inaccurate and maybe misleading. They’re on it – no 10 to 12 hour news lags allowed.

The stories are corrected revised and re-reported as they unfold – no harm, no foul. Viewers see the sausage as it’s being made.

Bear in mind, we’re talking about huge news organizations with hundreds of ready, willing and able staffers.

Not just me.

When Don Harman died last week, the news came to me from a source in Manhattan, Kansas. My first response was to confirm it so I placed some calls, checked on Facebook and dug into the Star library for past Harman columns to offer readers a taste of better times.

Harman’s suicide was all over Facebook and a source close to him confirmed his suicide to me as well. Fellow weather wonk Gary Lezak then said a few kind words and spoke briefly of Harman’s battle with depression.

Case closed, right? Not in the public’s mind.

Before I could quilt together a fun, breezy flashback on Harman, a high level news media source emailed: "Hearing rumors in law enforcement circles that Harman was talked to last week by police about a cold case murder of a woman in the city from where he came to KC."

I was flying low at that point. It was late at night, so there was no checking with police then and I was facing aday of closed meetings starting the next morning. So I decided to share what I was hearing with readers – plus more reporting.

My headline teased that a "shocker" could be in the works. However I started the story off with a long reminder that Harman had serious depression issues, a discussion of depression, then touched on other possible causes as to eliminate them. Harman lived in a normal neighborhood – nothing fancy – was well paid – six-figures, according to TV news sources. And his show had good ratings so he appeared to have job security.

Only then did I write…

"I’m not going to go into it here, but the talk in law enforcement is that Harman was spoken to by police very recently about the possible reopening a cold case crime in another city," I then added vaguely. "If true, count on the news breaking fairly fast. I’ll be looking into it later today and try and report back as to whether there’s any truth to that rumor."

Later that night I was contacted by a named source, not an anonymous person – with ties to the Harman household..

"That weather guy hung himself in my friend’s old house," he told me. "In South KC, Woodbridge. From what I know the kid was at home."

Meanwhile another commenter weighed in on the story I’d just posted about the cold case crime I’d alluded to, saying it may have been about missing Mason City, Iowa anchor Jodi Huisentruit. 

Wanting to share what information I had with readers before going into the all-day meeting, my headline the next morning asked; "Was Don Harman Involved in Missing Iowa Anchor Jodi Huisentruit?"

That was the question I hoped to answer.

I referenced the Huisentruit mention from the comments section and reported I’d confirmed that Harman worked at the station at the time she disappeared. Immediately I added, "To be fair, while that may be true, it certainly doesn’t mean that Harman was a suspect in that case."

Then I laid out the Huisentruit story, with no mention whatsoever of Harman.

Let’s review; I reported police sources were saying Harman had been interviewed, that it may have nothing to do with him, then I told the Huisentruit story.That’s it.

How much thinner could I have written it? Not very. This was a window into how the news evolving and I wanted to carefully share it with readers. I will take the hit on the hanging part though – the rumor was out there – but it should have been attributed to the source or just skipped. Still it was part of the news process.

Since then sources close to the family have told me that Harmon asphyxiated himself (with a bag but no helium) and that he left both a note and a video. The latter seemingly indicating some level of premeditation.

I’ve also been told Harman’s family can’t get the house listed for sale fast enough and want to get out of KC.

Hey, so that’s the way news evolves sometimes and this story was a whirlwind tale.

Had any of you been working behind the scenes at the Star or a local news station, chances are you’d have been privy to much of this. You’d have experienced and learned pretty much what I experienced and learned as it all unfolded. Remember when the Star‘s Joyce Smith asked her Facebook friends to tell her what they knew about the owner of Starker’s suicide? Remember when Bottomline Communications declared Star foodie Lauren Chapin dead while she was still very much alive and in the hospital?

By the time the Mason City police investigator Frank Stearns finally returned my calls several days after the fact, he’d been besieged by other KC reporters wanting to follow up on my story a possible Husientruit connection. It’s not like they where about to leave that stone unturned.

Instead of shielding you from that news process, I shared it and took readers along for the ride. For better and for worse. And, as you can now see, finally brought the story full circle. Almost.

There is one more twist coming later tomorrow.

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31 Responses to Today: The Truth & Nothing But the Truth About The Don Harman Reporting

  1. Sailor says:

    confirmations
    The earlier poster was right. He did the exit bag helium thing. He knew his 2 year old daughter was sleeping in the next room. He timed it out so his wife would be home in 20-30 minutes. He left a video for them. He left a letter to the morning team saing the laughs are over, It was quick, clean and chicken-shit. Did he not have a God to pray to or somebody to tell he was about to end it all.?
    Who am I to say? It’s sad, but so much shit in this world these days is sick and sad. It comes down to faith.

  2. chuck says:

    Down comes the 4th estate’s 4th wall.
    Journalism by way of Twitter, Blogging and the Internet is a Particapatory Theater blood sport at this point.

    The wailing and gnashing of teeth, heard throughout the city from traditional mainstream vehicles and in the comments section of several blogs, concerning the suicide of Mr. Harman, speaks to change, but more saliently speaks to misplaced, narcissistic, identity pathologies of average citizens, who believe for sure, that the movie playing in their head, will include an interview by Oprah on national TV on how they felt the day they heard the news.

    Inudated, drowning in “Reality” shows, we are reduced, diminished, “dumbed down” by way of incessant repitition and banality (Thats it, they should call them “Banality” shows.). That in no way, means YOU are hangin with the Kardahians, or that they want you to hang with them. Or, that you actually knew Dan Harman. Take a deep breath, he was a weather guy on your television.

    The Geico Gecko is now officially unable to limbo his ass under our cultural bar without falling on his little green ass. Kris Jenner and the Kardashians are at the helm, and whats left of American dignity, intellect and probity just got flushed down the shitter after another Houswives of (You fill in your favorite county) colon blow.

    Is, was Dan Harman’s tragic end a sad story? Sure, for his family, and for his friends. Not you, ok, NOT YOU. Thats right YOU! The guy sitting in his underwear, drinkin coffee while Dan used to tell ya, with modest success, on the TV, what the fuckin weather was gonna be. YOU did not know him.

    Should Dan’s family be upset with the coverage of his death? Sure. Its a subjective emotion, generated by negative coverage. That said, when you sign up for the job of local TV Weatherman, and live in the city, it obviously comes with some baggage. That guy sittin in his underwear, is gonna bug you in the produce aisle when you are at the grocery store. The moron thinks he knows you, and you are friends because he saw you on TV. Lady GaGa ain’t gonna write a song about you, but you do get recognized. It comes with the territory.

    Hearne’s coverage of the story, reflects the real time realities and necessities of breaking stories in this new journalistic tableau.

    Here is, by the way, a ruling from a Federal Judge yesterday with regard to bloggers and their “Shield”.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/judge-in-ore-rules-mont-blogger-in-defamation-case-isnt-a-journalist-not-shielded-by-laws/2011/12/07/gIQAAXCVdO_story.html

    What is interesting to me, is not the actual ruling, but the attempt to rule at this level, which will no doubt be challenged.

    The ability to categorize yourself as a journalist, by an Descartian ipso facto action, I blog, therefore, I am a journalist, is yet to be determined.

  3. Beggo says:

    TKC busted you big time and now you’re reeling
    Too late Hernia. Tony at TKC busted your bubble and now you’re backpedaling and reeling. You’re no longer a journalist. You’re nothing but a blogger.

    So very sad.

  4. harley says:

    never seen so much anger and
    hate directed toward one person. Hearne…you’ve got this town buzzing. People are trashing you
    left and right…in public places…in restaurants…and on blogs. I think the criticism is a bit over the top and you don’t
    deserve all this negative commentarty.
    Hope things calm down. but people everywhere are pissed off!!!!!!

  5. mark smith says:

    It was the Teaser Title
    It was the suggestive title that got your tit in the wringer. I think I also made mention of cops rumors being taken with a grain of donut powder. Chuck makes a good point about how we tend to think we know the people that glow in the light of our television. You do tend to sensationalize in an Enquirer-ish kind of way. Not knocking your style, obviously I read your stuff, partly for the purpose of , knocking your writing style, but also because you are usually entertaining to read. In this case you got some pretty strong push back, people liked Don, or the television persona of Don. Anytime you cover death in a less than flattering way, true or otherwise, people tend to have a knee jerk reaction. In this case, the knee jerk reaction was aimed at your groin, so to speak. No doubt you’re still limping a bit.
    The way we get our news has changed. It comes fast and furious through countless sites. In the scramble to be FIRST, sometimes the actual facts get trampled in the stampede. I think if not for that sensationalized and suggestive title of that single post, you’d have gotten little to know push back on your coverage. Just my opinion. The one thing that has me perplexed and leaning toward your side of the fence, was TKC attempting to be THE VOICE OF RESPONSIBLE REPORTING AND SENSETIVITY!!!!! regarding your coverage of the story. That was the biggest stretch of this whole hot mess.

  6. smartman says:

    2 Wongs Don’t Make a Wite
    C’mon we all piss in the swimming pool and blame the dog or the spouse for the SBD’s. No harm, no foul here. Only God knows the truth and as imperfect sinners it’s our choice if not our obligation to roll around like pigs in the mud. Place your bet based on your belief in free will versus predestination. We can all lay claim to being victims if we choose. If it helps you can assuage your guilt by donating money to Don’s fund or other charity in his name. Some of us will take the lesson from this tragic event and apply it to future actions, others won’t. In the end it only matters if you want it to. Doesn’t make you better or worse just human.

  7. Robertoe says:

    quality commentary
    Chuck, Mark Smith and Smartman get the kudos from me. Not just on this thread but on a regular basis. There should be posters awards at the xmas wilding, Hearne. Also nametags! Lets us know where – hopefully today!

  8. tiad says:

    Gee, Jr.,…
    …thanks for the “look behind the curtain,” but has it occurred to you that there is a “curtain” for a reason?

    Only you could summarize it and lay it out so nicely above, yet still be clueless as to your actions.

    8 + 3 = 11

  9. In the boonies says:

    Chuck has it right.
    I copied and pasted his entire comment to my blog.

  10. Hearne Christopher says:

    Very sad. I heard no helium though.

  11. Hearne Christopher says:

    Didn’t even read it, dogg. Just keeping it real.

  12. Hearne Christopher says:

    It’s at 5:30 pm Monday at, gulp, Jardine’s

  13. Tim Tebow says:

    Aaron Barnhart reports news? Since when
    It was damn luck that Aaron Barnhart didn’t mention his wife’s wore out book being published, our how he did some pre-internet BBS for Letterman in the same breath. He usually does. KC Star is on the ropes, the only ones hanging on are a few good reporters (NOT Aaron Barnhart !) and the people who work there.

  14. Hearne Christopher says:

    Have it your way if you must

  15. Sickened. says:

    This, is this considered journalism?
    I honestly cannot believe that this is how it is backpedaled. It does not matter HOW Done Harman killed himself. All that matters now is how his family goes on, and his daughter lives without being harassed by it. It wasn’t chicken shit. When you get that far down, obviously he felt it was the only option left. KC lost someone special because of it, and it sucks. But leave it alone! My God, the reason no one reported it was to give the family time to be notified. Don’t you think your parents would deserve as much respect?????? I pity the people who dare to disrespect my family in such a way.

  16. Gerald Bostock says:

    Hearne’s sausage factory
    Thank you for explaining your poor judgment and journalistic deficits in such detail.

  17. Hearne Christopher says:

    Everyone reported it. But it was nearly 10 hours after Fox 4 reported it that the Star story went up.

  18. Hearne Christopher says:

    Prego

  19. Orphan of the Road says:

    Could have been fun
    Was looking forward to meeting chuck and some others but no way I support this woman or her business while she is calling people thieves and not paying her bills.

    Robertoe, sign me up.

  20. Merle Tagladucci says:

    I’m good with this. All it takes is a couple thousand words of personal justification from Hearne for his fumblings in publicly mishandling the way he chose to approach this story and I’m straight. No more complaints from me. I think he might have even paid it forward a little with this column and I’d say he’s probably good for one or two more inevitable gaffs that we can all let slide. No worries mate.

    Now all you negative commenters, listen up.

    You better think twice before typing any more of your mean, hateful remarks about the Hearnster unless you want your name put on the black list for Monday’s White Christmas Party at Dysfunction Junction. This is not the week to be drawing negative attention to yourself. Every snarky little word that comes out of your keyboard is lessening your chances of getting invited to the back bathroom for toots and tugs from Beena the Blow Queen, so if your self righteousness and preaching are that important to you, let it fly, but don’t show up Monday night wearing furry reindeer antlers expecting to be let in.

    For those of you like myself who still reside on Hearne’s good side, we’ll see you there.

  21. Hearne Christopher says:

    Dysfunction Junction? I like it. Come on down!

  22. Hearne Christopher says:

    Don’t touch that dial, orphan. Until you read the latest up top.

  23. gully says:

    anyone from Mason City?
    Too bad no one from Mason City reads this blog. The have really interesting and quite varied views of this whole story, from 1995 up to today.

  24. Hearne Christopher says:

    Actually people from Mason City have weighed in. And I’ve spoken to a handful of them and am working on a Don Harman-Free update and look at the Huisentruit case.

  25. D. Beazer says:

    The bad guy (Stalin) ‘just’ does his job
    SHAME, , , there are no words, in Elvish, Entish, or the tounge(s) of Man. A journalist should know better. Join the bottom feeders, the dreges of lawyers and politians, Viet Nam, Cambodia & sell your integrity for a $725 bonus with ‘added’ explanations and two snappy headlines- the extreme pain you caused, not considered! not for truth! but for gain ? . . . is it’s own curse in a life. I’m sorry.

  26. me says:

    Soooooooooo – Tell Me…
    “There is one more twist coming later tomorrow.” ok, – finish the thought – what is it???

  27. Sickened. says:

    So what?
    And yes, they did wait till the next morning. the rest of the local stations should have waited as well, out of respect for the man’s family regardless of where he worked. Where is the compassion in this town? They should have waited- it’s simply called manners which quite a few seem to be lacking lately.
    Not that I’m naming names.

  28. Roger says:

    Regardless
    Regardless of how people might look at the series of articles Hearne wrote what I find interesting is that every single news outlet in this city basically went quiet about Mr. Harmon’s death. I respected him for his work but he was a public figure in this city and just like everyone of the journalists and field reporters in KC who don’t think twice about sticking their microphone in the face of those affected by tragedy (and who are usually not public figures) and plaster their faces everywhere in their time of grief I found their hipocrasy in backing off from the story laughable. If you are a journalist you do your job the same time every time. Do I like how they flash pictures of family members crying at the site of a shooting in KCK? HELL NO; but if you call that journalism day in a day out and are “proud” of your reporting and your sister stations fly helicopters trying to catch a glimpse of tragedy, then why do you back off and hide when it’s one of your own. In my book that’s kind of chickenshit and having read Hearne for a while I have no problem having him call a spade a spade.

  29. Dave says:

    Now that Hearne doesn’t seem to be paying attention anymore
    I’ll go ahead and re-post the stuff the Douche-Lord deleted two weeks ago …

    ——————————————————————–

    While following your recent “coverage” of the Don Harman incident, I’ve been struggling to remember if I’ve ever met somebody who was more of a piece-of-shit human being than you.

    I was about to give up, then I remembered that almost 25 years ago, when I was in high school, I worked with a guy who moonlighted as an EMT. It was a well-known and undisputed fact that the only reason this guy spent his spare time riding around in ambulances was that he was hoping and dreaming that on some glorious day, when nobody was looking, he could have sex with a corpse.

    You may not have achieved that goal literally, my friend, but you’ve certainly achieved it metaphorically. Congratulations.

    ——————————————————————–

    (I’ll probably keep re-posting this shit, possibly for YEARS … just as long as Hearne keeps pathetically attempting to defend his sorry attempts at journalism, and molesting his own daughters.)

  30. Dave says:

    Hearne can’t handle the truth
    Rumor has it that Hearne Christopher kidnapped Baby Lisa! So he could eventually impregnate her and use HER baby’s stem cells to firm up his sagging scrotum! Stay tuned! (Hey, it’s just a rumor …)

  31. James L. McIntyre says:

    The remains of Jodi Sue Huisentruit were recovered in 1997.
    The mortal remains of Jodi Sue Huisentruit are with the good Doctor.

    Dr. David L. Frederickson MD ME
    Stearns County Medical Examiner Office
    P.O. Box 217
    Saint Cloud, Minnesota 56302
    Phone: (320) 259-3730

    Jane Doe #1 and Jodi Huisentruit are one and the same person! It is not my fault that Jodi’s body has been moved twice! Stearns didn’t check with Dave. The killer of Jodi Huisentruit is listed below, along with his current location.

    Keith Dwayne Nelson
    Federal Inmate: 07440-031
    USP TERRE HAUTE
    U.S. PENITENTIARY
    P.O. BOX 33
    TERRE HAUTE, INDIANA 47808

    Use this address for In-Person visits.

    USP TERRE HAUTE
    U.S. PENITENTIARY
    4700 BUREAU ROAD SOUTH
    TERRE HAUTE, INDIANA 47802

    Phone: 812-244-4400
    Fax: 812-244-4791

    E-mail address: THA/EXECASSISTANT@BOP.GOV

    Keith Dwayne Nelson is a multiple serial killer and Jodi Sue Huisentruit was murder victim number 2.
    Six women/girls were kidnapped and five died. Nelson was diagnosed as schizophrenic. Jodi Sue Huisentruit looked like a would-be girlfriend who rejected him. His M.O. is similar to the late Theodore “Ted” Bundy. He gave Jodi’s Tote bag to a female acquaintance.

    The Stearns County Sheriff Office (320) 259-3700 has Jodi’s personal check book. Nelson’s latent fingerprints are on two of the checks and are also on the check book. Samples of his handwriting are also on them. Nelson’s palm print will MATCH the palm print found on Jodi’s Mazda Miata. Jodi’s latent fingerprints were found in his white Ford Econoline van now in the Kansas vehicle impound garage 150 miles from Kansas City, Kansas! He also murdered Julie Ann Holmquist of Hallock, Minnesota. Julie was murder victim number 3. I was investigating the murder of Julie Holmquist when I noticed the similar Modus Operandi. I have found six murder victims of which only one survived.

    James L. McIntyre
    McIntyre Consulting

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