In 2007, St. Charles Journal columnist Steve Pokin broke the “MySpace Suicide” story, about a 13-year-old girl who took her life over emails from a fake boyfriend created by a 49-year-old woman.
Pokin doesn’t mention the story that made him famous in today’s “Pokin Around” column — his last one for the St. Charles paper. He tells readers he’s leaving the Journal to cover higher education for the Springfield, Mo.-based News-Leader. He writes:
I came to the conclusion a few years ago that 1,000 columns would be a worthy goal. Alas, this is only No. 597. I leave behind 16 pages of story ideas I’ve accumulated since I started Pokin Around on Nov. 13, 2005. …When I look at that list I feel regret and guilt. I’d told myself I’d get to all of them. Eventually.
News-Leader executive editor David Stoeffler, who worked with Pokin in St. Louis five years ago, tells Romenesko readers that “Steve and I have kept in touch over the last couple of years” and they started talking about working together again after the News-Leader lost its higher education reporter to the Associated Press Beijing bureau.
“Steve has a unique knack for finding the kinds of stories that get people talking about what’s in their paper or on its website,” says the editor. With the MySpace suicide story, “the real trick was getting people to talk about it. That’s where his talent is — making people feel comfortable and getting them to tell their story.”
Here’s what Pokin writes in an email:
I’m proud of the reporting I did on the Megan Meier [MySpace suicide] story. I’m proud that my small paper paid to fly me out to California to cover the Lori Drew trial. I’m also proud that Tina Meier has kept her word and to this day is still traveling the country and warning school children about some of the dangers of cyberspace.
It is difficult for me to claim that story as a highlight of my 8 1/2 years at the Journal because, at its core, it is about the suicide of a 13-year-old girl, and that’s a sad story.
To be honest, I’d rather not be known for a particular story. I’d rather be known as a reporter and columnist who was versatile, who could one day write a humor column and the next do a watchdog investigation.
It was difficult for me to leave the Journal. I loved being a columnist and I love the city where I live — St.Charles, MO.
First, I think I’ll like the higher ed beat because it will require a range of reporting from features to watchdog, which I like.
Second, I’ve worked for David Stoeffler before. He was the publisher at the Journal for a while and he is the executive editor of the News-Leader in Springfield. Working for David is a wonderful opportunity.
Third, I became very comfortable at the Journal, which is a good thing and a bad thing. I think I can become a better journalist by making the change.
Fourth, and this is the reason why I was willing to look for a new job in the first place, my wife has been unemployed for over a year. She had earned two-third’s of our family income. My new job provides a higher salary.