Objectivity vs Sensitivity

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

For the last few months, I've been toying with the idea of on-line journalism. As I followed breaking news from around the world I read many stories about suffering and hardship. The NEWS is most often bad news, so how can a reporter maintain his professional objectivity, while witnessing horrible events like the flooding in Burma, or the earthquake in China where tens of thousands of people have died, and many more are still suffering?

On a local level, I'm facing what looks to be a dilemma.

Last week, a very close friend, and co-worker ( actually he's my supervisor, and neighbor ) pulled me aside and asked, "Would you come over to my house tonight, I need someone to talk to, something bad has happened." So Bob, his Mother, and I talked about the sudden death of his son. We talked all night.

Bob's major frustration was the seeming lack of concern for justice, and what seemed to be the will-ful ignorance of the police and press. As we talked, we three concluded that both parties needed to be prodded, forced if necessary to move on this man's request for information, justice, and closure. Hours of phone calls had the desired effect. The following is the first media report of the incident other than the simple traffic accident report.

Family: Why no charges: Officials have 'a lot of work' in accident that killed infant
By Adam Testa, The Southern
Wednesday, June 4, 2008 9:50 AM CDT

MURPHYSBORO - The death of an infant ejected from a car during a single-vehicle crash on Memorial Day has the paternal family questioning why no charges have been filed yet against the driver.

Seven-month-old Noe Agapito suffered fatal injuries when a vehicle driven by his mother, Yuridia Agapito, 26, of Carbondale lost control of her vehicle while driving westbound on Illinois 13 in Murphysboro, according to a press release from the Murphysboro Police Department last week.

Her vehicle skidded across the median into oncoming traffic and then overturned, police said. At some point during the rollover, Noe was ejected from the vehicle, and the press release noted he was not properly secured in a car seat. Noe died Thursday from injuries sustained in the accident.

Police Chief Jeff Bock said it "would be my belief" that Agapito does not have a valid driver's license. Kathy McCrary, Noe's paternal grandmother, said her family informed police that Agapito does not have proper credentials to live in the United States.

"I can't verify that this is true, but that's being looked into," Bock said.

While no official charges have been issued, Bock said everything had been prepared by Tuesday to send to State's Attorney Mike Wepsiec to ensure all appropriate charges are filed.

"There's a lot of work to be done," he said.

The loss of her grandson and the way the situation has been handled by all parties involved has left McCrary "frustrated and devastated," and her family members are not the only ones feeling sorrow.

"This blindsided everybody because the injuries did not seem that severe," Bock said, noting that neither police nor paramedics thought Noe's injuries were life-threatening.

Agapito and her passenger, 18-year-old Roberto Garcia, received minor injuries in the crash.

adam.testa@thesouthern.com / 351-5031

I may be a little too close to the story to be objective. I'm posting this here ( and cross posting to my other page ) for several reasons. First, these events have been on my mind a lot this last week, and I thought you all deserved an explanation for my perhaps odd attitude lately. But more important, I need feedback.

There are several issues involved, other than the natural grief, and suffering of the families. Did this article in the local paper raise any issues with you all? I would mention immigration as an issue. Cultural barriers, and culture shock is another. The story mentions the infant's grandmother, and that brings up family rights issues. And then there is deportation, and citizenship. Child safety, and child restraints...I could go on and on, but I wonder what my contacts think about this news article, as I've presented it.

Personally, I agree with Bob, and think someone should do some jail time. But that's the problem I started this post out with. I am very close, and emotionally involved with the story. Although my lack of objectivity won't stop me from pushing this local story as far as it will go, I just can't see how real journalists do it. Report tragedies without bias, and retain their humanity.

It seemed to me that the reporter did as well as he could, with the information available. But, I wonder if there would have ever been a story, if Bob hadn't pushed the issue.

Thanks for reading. If this post makes you all too uncomfortable to comment, I'll understand.

Wallace.

3 comments:

reading_is_dangerous said...

the mother her child, and it appears to be that she could be held responsible for the tragic death, and so she could be put in jail, unless she was to be deported first.

I am surprised by this:
//Kathy McCrary, Noe's paternal grandmother, said her family informed police that Agapito does not have proper credentials to live in the United States.//

I am surprised that her family would want to share that kind of information with the police, unless the police asked that question first.

In any case, I am not sure whether or not I would personally feel like jailing the poor mother. She lost the child, and that's punishment enough, in my opinion, but more important is what the law says about it.

reading_is_dangerous said...

//the mother her child,//
should read as: the mother LOST her child

Wallace said...

Kathy is the fathers mother, the young mother has been moved to a 'suicide watch' facility at an out of state hospital.

All of these people are good friends, and co-workers, hard working people and not criminal in any sense of the word. About 1/3 of the work force at the factory we all work at are immagrents with 'questionable credentials', including Agipito and many of her extended family.

Our quiet fear is that all the exposure resulting from Bob's efforts to get information about his child will lead to a broader tragedy like the events in neigboring Postville, Iowa.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/24/us/24immig.html?scp=5&sq=waterloo+iowa&st=nyt

Hundreds of workers were arrested, tried, sentenced and/or deported within days of a raid in that small town. Under the quise of Emergency Mangagement Exercises ( tornado, hurricane, earthquake, etc ) buses and agents occupy a local fairground or similar facility, and then stage a 'raid'. It is a new tactic by the Federal Government. It is an election year.

I am far too close to these events to be objective. I'll have to digest all of this, before I post more.