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Interview: Dana Bruno of BrunoReport.net
interview
game: Interview: Dana Bruno of BrunoReport.net
posted by: Shawn Rider
date posted: 09:10 AM Tue Nov 12th, 2002



Dana Bruno runs the one-woman-show, The Bruno Report (www.brunoreport.net), which has been getting more than a little notice recently due to her high profile involvement in the Search 4 E. Search 4 E (www.search4e.org) is a project underway from True Crime Press to utilize Websurfing civillians to help solve the mystery of what happened to the even more mysterious "E" (Ed Sobian, Eric Sobel, or Emil Sobiak, take your pick). Currently there is reluctance in the law enforcement community to take up the missing persons case, largely due to the fact that it is hard to determine whether E was kidnapped or ran away, so in a move spearheaded by James Pitt (the well-known author) and True Crime Press, private investigators have been brought in. The allure of large amounts of money and valuable items found by professional and amateur investigators researching the case has helped generate serious interest.

GamesFirst! got an unprecedented chance to play like real reporters and ask pertinent questions to one of the primary investigators in the Search 4 E case, Dana Bruno. Below is a transcript of our email interview:


Composite images of what E may look like now.

GamesFirst!: First off, we'd like to introduce you to our readers. Can you tell us a bit about your website, The Bruno Report, as well as your background in investigative journalism?

Dana Bruno: To answer your first question, my own site http://www.brunoreport.net grew out of my work as an investigative reporter for the now defunct alternative on-line journal, newsdogs.com, a loose collective of journalists committed to pursuing what we deemed to be newsworthy stories that had escaped the attention of more mainstream media groups. Red Hand was the part of Newsdogs that published uncredited reports and information obtained by means beyond the 'accepted' boundaries of more traditional news gathering organizations.

Newsdogs was begun in 1995 by Antonio Bustamente, Sevi Mutterjee and me, while we were all graduate students at Columbia University School of Journalism. Privately funded, it existed for six years (never making a cent) until Bustamente and Mutterjee were killed in a helicopter accident while investigating a story in Brazil.

Unfortunately, after this tragedy, not only was the Newsdogs funding pulled, but its sites and archives were mysteriously stripped of content, without the knowledge of me or any of my other colleagues. Our former webmaster is in possession of some material but a great deal more, that resided (safely, as we thought) on the site is simply gone.

GF: Your history with Newsdogs is intriguing. As a matter of fact, that organization seems very interesting -- blood and guts and espionage from what I've seen/heard. But I suppose we should stay focused on the Search for E right now.

DB: Yes, the Newsdogs history is a colorful one. It was a dynamic group of people really committed to going after, looking at and interpreting the news in non-linear, non-mainstream ways, but unlike NPR, we didn't have government funding and after a while we were all loathe to dip any deeper into our trust funds (kidding, but only sort of.)


The last known photo of E.

GF: And what brought you to the search for E? What piqued your interest?


James Pitt at TCP Press Conference

DB: What brought me to E was my habit of combing small-town papers for items of interest. From my point of view, reading small town papers is like taking the pulse of the country, one area at a time. Shortly after 9/11, when the entire country (myself included) was fixated on the same tragic events, I found myself taking a few moments here to look elsewhere, almost as therapy, in search of some fleeting relief. Somehow the story of E's disappearance, as reported by Jerry Koeppel in the Brueggertown Reporter, caught my eye. Having no idea where it would lead, I drove down to Brueggertown to try to meet some of the people in question: James Pitt and Chief Ingersoll, for example. Then I kind of got sucked in, in part because I found the antagonism between Pitt and Ingersoll (as evidenced by their letters to the editor) amusing, but mostly because there was a gray-area aspect to the story, as in crime or no crime, that I found compelling.

GF: How would you classify your relationship to the search -- you are not in law enforcement, and True Crime Press seems to be running the show. Where does Dana Bruno fit in?

DB: My relationship with True Crime Press is one of convenience, I suppose, for both of us. My paycheck ended with the death of my friends and the demise of the organization we'd worked so hard to build. I had little desire to deal with the constraints and rigid accountabilities of mainstream journalism, and had funded my own enterprise (Bruno Rreport) for the better part of a year. While the fit between Bruno Report and TCP is not perfect (and TCP would probably agree) it serves us both for the time being. That is, I get a steady income (not lavish, I can assure you) and they get the benefit of my research skills and experience, not to mention the work on the case I've done up to now.

GF: So you had not met James Pitt before hearing about E? What about rumors of a closer personal relationship between you and Pitt?

DB: As for my "closer personal relationship" with James Pitt, beyond scheduled meetings (usually at the Sunshine Diner) and phone calls, there's very little to report. I had never been a fan of true crime, and to be honest had never come across his name until I saw the article by Jerry Koeppel in the Brueggertown Reporter. When I read, over the following days, the back and forth between Pitt and Brueggertown Chief of Police Bradley Ingersoll, I decided the story was intriguing and off-center enough to pursue.

GF: Based on your investigation, which is it: Ed Sobian, Emil Sobiak, or Eric Sobel? Who was or is E?

DB: At this time, I'm fairly certain that the real E is Emil Sobiak - unless he was savvy and devious enough to change his name by the time he got to middle school. My frustration has come from not being able to find any family members by that name. And despite recollections of teachers and librarians at Hamilton Middle School, it's extremely odd that his school records are "missing." Furthermore, Hamilton Middle School feeds into Hamilton High, and it is clear from my investigation that he did not attend, there being neither records nor recollections among the teaching staff. This is particularly odd, because among the teachers who claimed to remember Emil (e.g. Barbara Reynolds, school librarian) none could recall that the family was planning to relocate or send Emil to another, as in private or parochial, high school.

GF: Jeremy Denauer is the latest addition to the Search for E investigative team, right? How do you like him? Would you call Pitt, Denauer and yourself a team? Or is this more of an individual sport?



Jeremy Denauer

DB: I would like to say that I have the highest professional regard for Jeremy Denauer. I'm not certain that my personal feelings have any bearing on our working relationship. It is no secret that I introduced Jeremy to True Crime Press, having met him Wyman, while we were both investigating the Julie's Uprising disappearance - me for Newsdogs and Jeremy for the FBI. My notes from our first (and rather inauspicious) meeting are in my blog. At this point Jeremy and I function as a team only in that we have agreed to share findings with each other first, and then with the investigative community. It is not that we are trying to withhold, but we also want to be sure that when we put information out, it is of enough merit and credibility to be helpful. That is, neither of us wants to be a source of disinformation, so some care is required.

We thank Dana Bruno for taking time out of her busy schedule to discuss this case with us, and we encourage our readers to do their part to help with the search. Click to http://www.search4e.org.