One of the many local celebrities in Dallas’ gayborhood is a homeless woman named LaCheryl Wilson (who also known as “Crazy Mary.”)
“Crazy Mary” is mostly an affectionate nickname, but Wilson does appear to suffer some mental health issues. I remember seeing Wilson screaming at people and cars every few weeks when I lived in Oak Lawn.
The tantrums were sporadic however – I usually saw Wilson calmly smoking cigarettes in bus stops or shuffling along Cedar Springs Road.
My friends spotted Wilson as far as Carrollton and Fort Worth, but she mostly stayed around Oak Lawn, where she was a longtime fixture. There is even a Facebook group dedicated to keeping the neighborhood updated on Wilson’s whereabouts and swapping stories. This is where news of her death was posted last week.
The remembrances came flooding in and the Dallas Voice ran an obituary, but something seemed …off.
The Dallas Voice obituary states that Wilson died, but gives no details about her death nor does it cite any sources regarding her passing.
When the author of the article shared it to Facebook, he confirmed that the information was unverified. So it appears that the obituary is based entirely on Facebook rumors.
I showed the article to a few journalists and they were all horrified. Running an obituary based on a Facebook rumor is laughably irresponsible.
Wilson appeared to be in poor health when I left Dallas, which is why news of her death seems so plausible.
However, there has yet to be any public report or on-record family confirmation regarding her passing, so Wilson’s death is – to date – an unconfirmed rumor.
A question of ethics
“Journalistic ethics” was one of the strangest things about working at a newspaper during the past year.
My coworkers spoke about ethics as if there were agreed-upon rules that everyone understood. Accuracy, attribution and balance are common-sense concepts, right?
But a quick glance at Fox News, the Blaze, Breitbart, and even some local TV coverage reveals that a reputation for inaccuracy is hardly fatal. However, a community publication needs to do better — particularly when covering one of its own.
Maybe Wilson is dead — but for now, I’m still holding out hope that someone will post a selfie with her to Facebook. In the absence of serious reporting on the issue, we are just left with rumors for now.
Update – Oct. 20: LaCheryl is confirmed to be alive according to a member of the Facebook group.