It started with a veteran reporter’s morbid curiosity, not an altogether novel point of origin. Reporters by nature often find themselves peering into the darker sides of life — and death.
Good reporters also possess an instinct for detecting stories others overlook. It’s called a “nose for news.” The late Lou Rose, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, was a bloodhound when it came to following the faintest of trails.
In the late 1980s, Post reporter Carolyn Bower remembers Rose sitting at his newsroom desk clipping obituaries of children who had died in St. Charles County, Mo., where the Mallinckrodt Chemical Works once operated a uranium processing plant. Rose had a hunch there might be a correlation between the infant deaths and radioactive waste deposited at the shuttered plant and a nearby quarry.
Ultimately, Rose, Bower, and fellow Post reporter Theresa Tighe teamed up to do an eight-part series on the St. Louis area’s forgotten radioactive waste sites. Gerry Everding, a free-lance reporter, also contributed to the effort. The investigative team ended up digging through thousands of documents, interviewing hundreds of people and visiting dozens of sites. The investigation continued for more than two years. Their work resulted in an eight-part series that ran in the Post-Dispatch in February 1989.