Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m proud of myself — and also, a question

I have thought of adding a new page to Charley, explaining why my site is different from all the others out there. Of course it is still the biggest one online in terms of number of open MP cases (though NamUs is quickly catching up, and if you included their unidentified listings it would be almost double Charley’s size), and unlike many sites that only cover one particular state, it covers the whole US including territories. (It would cover the world if I only had the time and linguistic ability.) And I make an effort to refer families of the missing to appropriate resources, namely Project Jason but other places too. Of course I have a lot of theoretical knowledge, but without having a close friend or relative vanish like the people on my website do, I can’t come even close to understanding the left-behind loved ones’ pain. So I try to get them in touch with people who do understand.

But mainly, my site is the only one that makes an effort to tell ALL the publicly available information about a missing person, and include as many photos as I can as well. That’s my niche — no other MP website that I know of does that, either because there are rules against it (typically government-run sites) or the people administering the site have not the time, the ability and/or the inclination. Taking all the information I can find and synthesizing it and summarizing it into one essay that provides as thorough an overview of the case as is possible — that is Charley’s niche.

Peter Kema’s case is a great example of this. I had to read probably dozens of articles about him, and also his Hawaiian Department of Human Services casefile, which amounted to two or three thousand pages. (It wasn’t quite as long as it sounds — a lot of the pages were in very large double-spaced type, or had very little text on them, or were duplicates — but thousands of pages are thousands of pages.) It took like twelve hours to read the DHS files alone, never mind all the articles I had to locate and read as well. And I took these huge chunks of info, which most normal people would not have the time or the determination to read all the way through, and turned them into a 1,760-word “circumstances of disappearance” summary which can be read in less than an hour and will give a person a very good grounding of the facts of the case. There are also eight photos of the little boy, and one age-progression. If a person has a particular interest in a certain case, instead of having to chase down twenty articles in ten different publications, they can come to one source and find out what they need to know. And whenever I come across new information, as soon as is reasonably practical I add it to the casefile.

Sometimes this leads to problems — mainly when some people, particularly relatives, don’t want certain information known, particularly information that portrays the MP in a less-than-exemplary light. When this happens I negotiate with them, and almost always take the information down. I don’t like doing it, but again, I have no idea what they’re going through and I don’t want to contribute to their suffering. I can only think of one case where I outright refused to remove the info, but I did modify it somewhat, and that satisfied the person.

My theory is that the more a member of the public knows about a person’s disappearance, the more likely they are to care. Faces and driver’s-license type info on posters are great for disseminating information quickly and efficiently, but very soon those faces start to blend together. I figure people are more likely to be like, “I remember her, she was the Holocaust survivor.” Or “Oh yeah, that woman who vanished and her house caught fire and her baby son was found dead inside.” Or “that teenage boy who was seen seeing walking down the road in underpants and sneakers as if it was the most normal thing in the world.” Or “the cultural exchange girl from Brazil who was so happy to visit America, poor thing.” It saddens me to have to write the all-too-frequent “few details are available” and whenever I get a chance to erase that sad empty statement and replace it with some actual facts, I’m as happy as if someone gave me an unexpected present.

I don’t really like to toot my own horn much — in fact I am a bit of a perfectionist and think there’s a lot of things I could and ought to do with Charley to make it better — but I am proud of what it is. Very few people have the combination of research abilities, writing talent, interest in the topic (some may call it obsession), and perseverance that is necessary to build a site with 9000+ comprehensive MP narratives and maintain it and make it grow for seven and a half years and counting.

Anyway, that’s how Charley is different than all the other sites out there. Should I point this out in a page of its own, or is the difference obvious enough as is? Would it sound like I was bragging or something if I pointed it out?

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23 thoughts on “Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m proud of myself — and also, a question

  1. Judy May 8, 2012 / 4:16 pm

    Nobody has a better site than you do and that includes Doe….I love your site….it gives so much information, the kind searchers need to try and figure out what happened to people…..Did I mention I love your site !!!!!!! lol

  2. Justin May 8, 2012 / 4:51 pm

    The Charley Project website is THE best and most complete missing person database for the United States available to the general public. Be proud. You deserve it. NamUs and the Doe Network have a large staff working on them and you do it all by your lonesome. You are awesome. No person can replace you on this if you decide not to do it anymore.

    • Meaghan May 8, 2012 / 4:56 pm

      Jennifer Marra could — but she doesn’t want to.

      • Justin May 9, 2012 / 12:25 am

        Not like you.

  3. D May 8, 2012 / 5:18 pm

    I would definitely highlight how the Charley Site is different in a separate place on the site. It may even say you some time answering questions

    • Meaghan May 8, 2012 / 5:19 pm

      I doubt it. Nobody seems to ever read my FAQ or anything. Many of them even skip the first few sentences at the top of the page and don’t seem to read anything but the contact email at the bottom.

  4. Kat May 8, 2012 / 6:55 pm

    Are you catching heat for something again? If worse comes to worse, I guess you could post the big FAQ stuff in stupid for those who won’t take the time to actually click on the link. But no, I think the site stands for itself. And if you want to call it bragging, brag away. You do an excellent job and obviously have a decicated fan base including LE, authors and reporters that want to talk to you. In some ways, you are doing the job for them. We are all proud of you, for sure. Hell, put up a banner if you want. But the site itself stands alone clearly for the info contained. I know I sound like I’m contradicting myself, but at least I know what I mean. I hope it types out ok!

    • Meaghan May 9, 2012 / 3:36 pm

      No, not catching any heat; no hate mail for months in fact.

  5. loki8447 May 8, 2012 / 7:37 pm

    You make so many missing people “real”. They become people with a past, a life and loved ones.

  6. Amy White May 8, 2012 / 8:32 pm

    I don’t think you need the extra page, but of course it’s up to you.I think the site speaks for itself. I have a passion for Missing Person cases and a passion for reading…so it is a great joy to READ your well-written site which is off-the-charts in terms of information provided.

  7. amy May 8, 2012 / 10:54 pm

    There is nothing wrong with pointing out the differences between Charley and other sites. I know that I use your site as a reference for my Doe research….and have for years. The bottom line is that all of the sites out there- Charley, Doe, Namus,NCMEC, Project Jason, NAMPN, ,Porchlight,Unsolved in the News etc. etc. are just trying to bring people home. I get crazy when sites or rather the people on them fight over “who is doing it right” and “who is trying to take credit”. (and no, you are in no way doing that, Meaghan).Credit? The credit, the glory, the happiness etc should be that we get people home, one way or another. I check all of the sites daily because in the end, ending family’s anguish is what I am hopeful for. So, yes, by all means, toot Charley’s horn, because it’s a wonderful site and resource. The more publicity we get out about all of these resources, the better we will be at jogging someone’s memory!

  8. Lisa May 8, 2012 / 11:53 pm

    I have always loved the detail of your site. I want to know all I can about a missing person and see all the pictures available. Charley Project is number one with me!

  9. L May 9, 2012 / 2:03 am

    You do an amazing job and thank you for all your hard work!

  10. LisaB May 9, 2012 / 5:54 pm

    I think the site stands alone, without need for a more detailed explanation. I love all the details and information about the person’s life and disappearance. It helps to put the person in context of what was going on in their life and makes them real.

    You do an exemplary job.

  11. meyahna May 9, 2012 / 9:55 pm

    Lol I often congratulate myself too (but in my case few others do so I have to lol). Your site really is the best around. The Doe Network died last May when lawless hackers stole it, as you said intellectual capacities are needed and these hackers just don’t have them which reflects on the site who’s become a drafty piece just good for garbage. As for NAMUS it’s good but you always have tons of info they don’t have.

    • libraryjobber May 9, 2012 / 11:10 pm

      Doe Network used to be so embarrassingly crude, poorly designed, inaccurate and outdated. Why didn’t Todd Matthews take it over years ago?

      It now looks so much better and I can use it without wanting to scream. Of course, Charley is still #1, but Doe is now a reasonable #2.

      • Meaghan May 10, 2012 / 5:26 pm

        I have my own opinions about this, and know a lot more about it than many of my readers, but I am not going to allow this blog to become a forum for Todd-lovers and Todd-haters to duke it out.

  12. Melissa May 10, 2012 / 7:06 am

    Do it!

  13. Lia May 10, 2012 / 9:45 am

    Your site is amazing: it is truly a labor of love. So many missing would be forgotten if not for your site. I am a researcher by profession and I admire your tenacity and dedication.

  14. Leaman May 10, 2012 / 9:30 pm

    Meaghan, what you do is simply amazing. It takes an unbelievable amount of dedication to do what you do. It really is an incredible undertaking for just one person. Having a page explaining what you do would be a good idea, just so that people get an idea of the scope involved.

    Also, I’m sure it would help with the misunderstandings that pop up–that charleyproject.org is a government-run site, that you actively search for MPs, etc., etc. Granted, this info is on the site already, but people are a little dense sometimes, and you really can’t explain things too much.

  15. Ruth May 10, 2012 / 10:41 pm

    It’s a good idea just for those who are not familiar with your site. They will be more apt to come back and actually spend some time here if they knew how comprehensive Charley case files are. The numerous pics you post for a MP is so important. I have seen MP posters then saw several pics of the person on Charley and was amazed at how different a person can look from one pic to another.

  16. Laurieb May 11, 2012 / 12:09 am

    You are so awesome, Meaghan. The only reason I go to Doe is when you have not updated in a while and I want to see what they’ve put up recently. I wonder always what is going to happen to Charley when you decide to move on or graduate, or whatever. Your expertise, detailed information, dedication and interest in what may have happened to all of the missing people you profile makes you shine above all others. Please keep doing what you’re doing.

  17. forthelost May 12, 2012 / 9:48 pm

    Your site is so good and comprehensive that way back when you ran the MPCCN I was hesitant to start my own site because I really couldn’t cover any new ground.

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