Friday, 4 September 2009

Cold Cases

The Toronto Star's captivating four-part cold case series updating a few of the unsolved murders of Toronto women was an example of what could be done with a weekly print media Cold Case column.

It would take at least one dedicated reporter to work his or her way through cold case files, but readers - and police - would be tuned in faithfully throughout the year.

As the Star's Michele Henry noted in Part 1 of the cold case series, there are about 300 unsolved murders in the GTA since the 1960s. Ample numbers to generate Cold Case columns for several years.

Add cold case files from other jurisdictions across Ontario and you could make a career out of cold case reviews, as Max Haines made a career out of writing about famous crimes.

You need someone with a passion for crime writing and for detail. Another Haines, or another Jocko Thomas. It is a natural Sun series, but they don't have any bodies to spare for a dedicated weekly column.

The Star's cold case updates by Michele Henry and had our attention from the first profile on Sunday and kept us reading every line through Wednesday. That is reader appeal. We'd be interested in knowing if the Star's street and vendor sales improved during the series.

The Star and the Globe have the manpower and the space to do a weekly Cold Case column justice. And perhaps the cash to offer readers a reward should new information lead to an arrest.

Fans of America's Most Wanted have helped capture more than 1,000 fugitives and have met the challenges of numerous unsolved cold cases.

Ontario newspaper readers, given the opportunity, could put a dent in Ontario's unsolved cases.


  1. The Cold Case series is certainly not new. In fact, about 10 years ago, The Sault Star ran a series of unsolved murders and strange cases from the Northern Ontario area. Prior to that, The Sudbury Star ran a similar feature. I'm sure other papers have done the same.
    The Star isn't being innovative in its series.

  2. All great ideas but we need staff for that and we know none of the papers in this company are going to commit to that.

    Fun to dream what good, quality newpapers could be like...

  3. Re 8:57 a.m. Updates on specific unsolved crimes are not new, but a dedicated weekly column on cold cases would be something new to print media in Ontario.

    Toronto newspapers have columns covering politics, pets, wine, food, sports, health, travel, the environment, cars, books, DVD and CD releases etc.

    A Cold Case column would benefit people affected by major unsolved crimes, assuring them they have not been forgotten, and police, who need as many eyes on unsolved cases as possible.

    It would also give newspaper readers the opportunity to help solve a mystery.

    For murder victims and their killers walking the streets with us, it would be a reminder that no cold case is a closed case.

  4. As someone who routinely writes cold-case stories, and stories about major past crimes, when there are anniversaries or developments (like a jailed killer seeking parole), I can tell you that it's often a substantial undertaking to write one, compelling feature. Families are often difficult to find (or reluctant to co-operate), investigators might be retired, dead, disinterested or hesitant to dredge up old wounds. Finding archival material is sometimes a nightmare. At the Kingston Whig-Standard, for instance, every hard copy photo file, before we went digital, was simply chucked in the trash, meaning dozens of old murder/crime files are lost.

    I agree with TSF that a regular, cold case column is a great idea and likely would attract new/regular readers, but most of the community papers have zero ability to staff that kind of initiative. There are days now at the Whig when I'm one of 2 or 3 city reporters working.