Where was the 'dirty bomb' story?

Question: I have a question about a story that happened, and I understand, was on the news wires but which I haven't read in any paper. Can you explain why the S-R didn't report this? On or about Dec. 5, 2003 in Tyler, Texas, a man who is member of a white supremacist groups was arrested for having a "dirty bomb" and means to detonate same. Now, that seems like a news item to me. I also know for sure that if the man was a Muslim or Arab, John Ashcroft himself would have held press conferences that would have been in every paper.

Can you explain what happened so that no papers reported this story?
I heard the district attorney of Tyler, Texas, say that the story was put on the news wires. Who decided not to report this story? And why? -- Cynthia Nichols, Moscow, Idaho

Answer: A search of The Spokesman-Review archives and the Associated Press files turned up nothing about a dirty bomb associated with Tyler, Texas. There is, however, the case of Jose Padilla, a former gang member and suspected terrorist, who is being held on suspicion of plotting to detonate a "dirty" radioactive bomb. This case was in the news on Dec. 4 and continues to make news because of legal questions surrounding the rights of those detained as enemy combatants in the United States.

If we had received a story as you describe, we certainly would have run it. You're right, this would be a big story that our readers would be vitally interested in. -- Jim Kresse, news editor

Update: In most cases, a "dirty bomb" refers to a small device with radioactive material. Thanks to more information provided by Cynthia Nichols and from Bill McCrory of Coeur d'Alene, I was able to track down a story in the Dallas Morning News about a cyanide bomb.

Nichols states correctly that: "The story is mostly unknown to almost anyone outside of Texas because the national media has all but ignored the story." I can't explain why it did not receive more attention, except that it must have been the collective wisdom of news editors that this story did not rise to the national level. Right or wrong, those kinds of decisions are made every day. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

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