No story is black and white. It's the dirty gray between the lines that cannot be easily defined or fitted into neat packages. They are the words left unsaid and unheard. It's the stuff that we filter out and define based on our own education and experiences. It is where tragedy is found and for me, on this day, pity and sorrow.
Two young boys, ages 3 and 2, drowned or were scalded to death on Friday. The circumstances are not clear. It's believed that the father filled the tub for the boys to take a bath, told the mother, ( or maybe not ), who apparently was sleeping, whether he left the house or as the police stated they both fell asleep in a narcotic stupor is still unclear to me. Several hours later, the boys are found by the parents, so they say, in an overflowing tub filled with hot scalding water that flooded out their apartment and caused water damage to two other apartments below them.
The family, like so many families from the inner cities is a amalgam of several different relationships. Her son was from another father and so was the father's from another woman. A dysfunctional family with no close ties to other family members and who had only friends, who are now divided over what happened, to defend the pair to us in the press. One member of the family didn't even know the name of the step-child. It's said that the police have visited the family over the years, because of the mothers' history of seizures and for the father who had a criminal history dealing with possession of drugs. Both it is said have some sort of drug addiction or abuse but no one saying what kind it is. We all have opinions on what happened, some indifferent, some angry, others just puzzled by what has happened. Some just shrug and move on to other topics of conversation more palatable.
Then I think about what I heard from people who actually saw the pair before they made their appearance in court. Both of the parents emotionless. One said that he saw the mother with her head bowed and her hands shaking in front of her. In court one friend said that she had no expression on her face whatsoever, she looked like she was dead to her. On their second appearance in court only one man who identified himself as a cousin spoke for the father. He claims that the father drew the bath and left the children in the care of the mother. She, he felt, was responsible for what happened. A friend of the mother talked bout how loving she was to the children that she never left them alone and that she always had them with her. For all the love whether indifferent or incompetent, two children are dead and we stake the courthouse out and try to piece the information together any way we can.
The funeral has not been set. The parents were denied bail and if what I understand to be true, couldn't even afford it if they had the means to post it. As for the children, no one seems to know how or when they will have their funeral because it's unclear as to how it's going to be paid for. A family member has yet come forward to take on that responsibility.
I look at the faces of the children, think about what little family that they had and how much life they have lost and all I can feel is sorrow.
We come in contact with peoples lives sometimes at the most stressful and traumatic times of their lives. We have to make contact to get closer to the story and in the process hope to make an image that gives meaning the tragedy. The publics reaction to our being there and attempting to do our jobs are wide ranging and often dramatic. Most ignore us, some look and treat us with disgust and others open up their lives and let us in. Despite popular belief, due mainly to the sensationalism inflicted on us by major media outlets like Fox and The New York Post, for many of us, we are truly there to service them and our readership. There are situations that I believe we should not be cover and if it were not for some middle management person making a bad call, I would rather not be there at all. If I get a clear indication that the family does not want us around then I have no problem what so ever in walking away.
When we come in contact with people who never had any experience with the media and we have to cut through layers of perceptions about who we are and what we really do. Many times people perceptions are justified, but rarely in the circumstances that are currently impacting on their lives.
Our profession has evolved and in many instances devolved from the mission of keeping government open and transparent and monitoring the issues that affect our communities. We struggle with being reactive to breaking news and then struggle some more to go beyond the initial headlines that lead us to the story. In many cases we seriously underestimate our readership and pander to the lowest common denominator simply because we don't want to offend too many people. We live in a time where so called 'real news,' is dictated by news corporations with their own political agendas and where new generations of readers and viewers equate freedom of the press, ethics and objectivity with that of the tabloids and the papparazzi. People now turn to the internet and pick up information that in many instances are inaccurate or downright dangerous. They don't realize the check and balances that exists in the modern newsroom and the dire consequences that face members of the media when they violate those ethical polices. This is something that many websites do not have in place.
We live in a society of information overkill with a small minority of people able to siff through the chaff to get the information that they need. Disinformation is the trend and good solid journalism is the prime target.
The Hanger ons, the curious, those that are looking for an angle in which they may gain, others just hoping to catch a bit of that elusive glow. The bored, the cynical, the disinterested and the obligated, sitting in a room hearing about how two lives that was destroyed by one and the fate that awaits the one. Sitting in a dim room in a town where the Constitution was penned and talking about how all that was built on that document will impact the family of the victims and the victimizers just for several days of stories that will recede from memory faster then it takes to take a breath.
Then the opportunity for people to express their continue disappointment of my imperfections would not exist. If I was a god, then how do I explain all the imperfection that I have created? There is a danger in striving for perfection...