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Thoughts on James Kim, media coverage

December 7, 2006

 Peter Helmenstine weeps at the storefront of the department store Doe, which is owned by the Kim family, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006, in San Francisco. (AP)

I saw Robert Scoble’s post today about the death of James Kim, and I can totally relate to what he’s feeling today.

When I got home from my drive-home commute yesterday and saw the news of Kim’s death, I sat at my computer desk in stunned silence, trying to figure out why I was feeling so devastated over the death of someone who I never met.

I was even more saddened to hear that the rescuers made contact with James, but we unable to rescue him before he died.

Maybe it’s because I share similar interests as Kim did in life, working in a similar career as an online journalist/editor/producer. Maybe it’s because I am so fond of the work CNET does on their site and appreciate their passion for their product, and am sad to see one of their family lost in this manner.

 Flowers are seen perched in the door handle of the Church Street Apothecary, which is owned by the Kim family Wednesday (AP)Maybe it’s because Kim’s family survived the ordeal in the wilderness, and my internal frustration knowing if James would have stayed put with his wife and two kids, he might have been rescued as well. (See the map of Kim’s journey here … he was just a mile away from a hunting lodge, but went the wrong direction.)

Or maybe it’s because the media has made this case a top headline, and much like missing-child cases that Nancy Grace, Greta and the like promote for ratings, I have been sucked into that “bubble of caring” that such media exposure creates.

The reports of James leaving clues for rescuers raised my hopes further that he would be found alive, while the reports of fresh bear tracks near his clues made me brace for the worst.

And I’m not alone. Today’s San Francisco Chronicle, Kim’s hometown paper, details the interest from all around the world:

As a parade of pundits debated the Iraq findings on TV Wednesday, twice as many Internet readers returned repeatedly to local and national news Web sites such as and, seeking the latest developments in the search for Kim.

It’s been that way since the weekend, when much of the nation outside the Bay Area learned that Kim, his wife and two young daughters had been reported missing.

“There is high interest any time you have a family of four that goes missing for an extended period of time with no logical explanation,” said news director Kevin Keeshan of San Francisco’s KGO TV. “People could relate to the situation the family was in. It could happen to anyone.”

At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, less than 90 minutes after James Kim’s body was found in rural Oregon, the story had received 1 million page views on, making it the top-rated story. The Iraq report was No. 12 there. On, Kim’s story had received 755,000 page views by mid-afternoon, nearly double that for the Iraq story.

The Chronicle’s online home,, reported 3,300 page views a minute on the Kim story in the hour after his body was found, far more than other breaking news stories. The site expected to have 2 million more page views than usual between Monday, when Kim’s wife and their two daughters were rescued, and Wednesday.


The Kim family’s disappearance story started as a tiny headline on the Drudge Report early last week. It ended as breaking news on the top news websites.

Like many cases where you pull for the underdog to come through, this time, it didn’t happen. The rescuers were too late to save James from the mountain.

But, thanks partly to James’ cell phone signal blip (even though he couldn’t make a call out on it), the rescuers were able to limit the search area and find his family.

So part of Kim will live on. And his memory will as well in those who remembered his bravery in facing this difficult situation

Again, our condolences to the Kim family, the CNET team and all those who knew him that are suffering right now. CNET has put together a very nice package on James’ life. Condolence messages can be sent to the family via this link.

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