by Max Brantley
For coverage of next month’s executions, Bailey says there will be a pool report from within the chamber, but he doesn’t know yet if the Democrat-Gazette will be in it. (Hometown reporters get preference from the state Department of Corrections, followed by the Associated Press, which has a policy of covering every execution. The AP was unavailable for comment.) While several Democrat-Gazette staffers have covered executions before, it’s been a long time since anyone witnessed an execution in Arkansas; the state hasn’t performed one in 12 years. Now, the paper is gearing up to tell the stories of eight executions in about as many days, and the unique circumstances surrounding them.The article recalls the last mass execution in Arkansas, a triple-header with a news coverage angle we noted at the time.
His paper is one of few outlets to note that Arkansas has done something like this before; in 1994, the state executed three men in just one day. Bailey was an editor at the paper then, too, but the then-executive editor decided how the story would run. “We had very minor coverage,” Bailey recalls. “The practice was to handle any execution as normal, even if they did three in one night. Just the natural turning of the wheels.” He and several other editors pushed for deeper coverage. Ultimately, the story didn’t make the front page.The article also talks with reporters who've covered botched execution. A summary also provides links to other reporting, such as this in which the creator of midazolam, a controversial sedative used in lethal injections, has objected to use of the drug this way. This is the drug whose provenance the state of Arkansas is desperately trying to keep secret.
“It’s not like what we do in this instance can offset what occurred years ago,” says Bailey, “but we’re trying to make sure we do the coverage right.”