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Gutknecht: A reporter’s view: Covering tragedy
Jackie Gutknecht

Hearing bad news is never easy. Try being the one telling the news, trust me: it’s not easy either.

This week, The Covington News was tasked with just that. We were forced to dive head first into telling the tragic story of a 15-day-old baby who lost her life. This highly-publicized story has been sad from beginning and it has been our job to make sure our readers are informed.

There has been a lot of discussion and opinions presented on the incident. I’m not going to talk about that. I’m going to talk about it from a reporter’s perspective.

The Covington News received a Facebook message mid-day Saturday with a screenshot. In the screenshot was a post on a local yard sale group reporting a missing child. The Facebook messenger was asking if this post was true. At that point, we had no idea.

Instead of taking the screenshot at face-value, we immediately jumped into action. I immediately reached out the Covington Police Department and Newton County Sheriff’s Office to find out if the incident was, in fact, true and which agency was working the case.

NCSO Investigator Jeff Alexander – who also serves as a Public Information Officer for the department – informed us that he was an investigator on the case and gave us the details for the person to contact for information. After reaching out to NCSO Captain Keith Crum, our first story was posted online.

Since then, The Covington News has done everything it can to update its readers with information about the case. We reported when the child’s body was found. We reported when the father was apprehended and arrested. We reached out to other law enforcement agencies to learn as much as we could about the man that is now behind bars. We even went inside the Newton County Jail for his first appearance in front of a judge.

Why is this special? We were just doing our jobs, right?

Let me tell you a little about the staff of The News. It’s tiny. While Atlanta media agencies were able to send one of their many reporters down to stake out the sheriff’s office for hours, we were sending our only reporter to take photos of a memorial, while also making sure we covered all of the other news happening in this community.

Thursday morning, when multiple news crews showed up with big cameras to record the first appearance, the full news staff of The Covington News was in attendance. No other print media agency can say that because they weren’t there. We were dedicated to telling this story and using all of our resources to do so.

Think to yourself: Where did you first hear the recording of the mother’s 911 call? What about the recordings of Christopher Michael McNabb’s arrest through the phone of 911 callers at the gas station he was spotted? Where are you able to see 12 different mugshots of the man now accused of killing his daughter? What source reported the cause and manner of death first? If you answered “The Covington News,” you’d be correct.

I am not saying all of this to brag at all. I am simply trying to explain how much hard work has gone into getting the facts compiled for you. These stories are hard to cover. I’ve had to take several timeouts during the week just to process everything I am writing about. This incident is horrific and it is impossible to not have some sort of reaction to it.

These are not the stories I like to tell. I want to tell the stories of your life. Unfortunately, this is part of it.

I want to finish this with a promise to you. I promise The Covington News will do everything in its power to make sure this incident is covered to the fullest extent possible. We are continuing to make sure we are your No. 1 choice for local news and hope that the coverage of this incident and any other story in this newspaper is a shining example of the work we do for you, our reader, every day.

Jackie Gutknecht is the News Editor of The Covington News. She can be reached at or 770-728-1409.