Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ghouls Masquerading As Reporters: When Pushing For a Quote From The Grieving Goes Too Far

Romenesko today featured an Aug. 29 column from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle from Mary Jane Milano, whose 14-year-old son Jeff Milano-Johnson collapsed after being struck by a ball while warming up for a lacrosse game.
As the family dealt with the pain from this unspeakable loss and kept vigil before Jeff's organs were donated two days later, Milano says she, her family and Jeff's friends and coach were set upon by media looking for interviews.

Early Thursday morning less than 15 hours after learning of my son's death, the phone rang in his hospital room. I picked it up to hear a TV reporter on the other end of the line. I almost ripped the phone out of the wall.
Later that same morning, completely emotionally and physically exhausted, barely able to remember to put one foot in front of the other and constantly having to remind ourselves of the need to breathe, we went home for showers. As we did, we were approached by a reporter holding a steno pad. That I did not physically assault him the moment I saw him was a miracle.

Milano doesn't say whether one of the reporters was from the D&C was among the scrum, nor does she identify any of the other prying media outlets, which is too bad.
This media assault came, despite the fact that the family released a statement through the hospital where Jeff was taken, and that was followed by statements from the school district and its athletic director.
Look, most reporters desperately want to avoid making these kind of calls, especially when it's assigned by an editor snug with the knowledge that he's not the one having to do it.
Sometimes you get lucky, and it's a person on the other end who needs a release and is happy to talk about the deceased and their legacy. But most of the time, it's an intrusion, and one that does nothing to enhance the story.
Your sympathy may be sincere, but your motives are anything but pure. That especially goes for the TV reporters who often don't have the foresight to go beyond the "how do you feel" line of questions.
There's nothing worse than the death of a child, except, perhaps, when reporters exploit your grief to make themselves look good.
It's a shame when reporters are so consumed with doing their jobs that they forget to feel ashamed when they cross the line. Milano and others like her are a source of sorrow, not a scoop.

No comments: