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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Somebody’s Mother

posted by on June 14 at 17:04 PM

In this week’s paper, I covered a woman’s bizarre death in Lake City. Today, I got a call from her 26 year-old son. Obviously, this is a rough time for the family and it seems they’ve been kept in the dark by SPD and the King County Medical Examiner. I shared what I could and I’ll be posting some follow ups soon.

It’s easy to get callous about things like this when they come through the fax machine on a daily basis. I’ll totally cop to the flippant tone of the article which, frankly, was due to my utter shock and disbelief as I read the police report.

This morning, I got an email from KROQ, asking if I’d be interested in appearing on their morning show to talk about the article. I can’t imagine anything less appealing than cracking wise about this woman’s death with a couple of shock jocks during drive time.

The icing on the cake came this afternoon. I found out that a well known Portland blogger linked my story with the headline “Nappy Headed Dead-Ho.”

Ugh.

My sincerest condolences go out to the woman’s six children.

RSS icon Comments

1

Fuck them and fuck you too. Get your light saber ready, cuz death is right around the corner.

Posted by what is and what isn't | June 14, 2007 5:13 PM
2

I don't think your tone was flippant in a ha-ha way. More like a "complete and utter disbelief" way. It's not a funny story. It's horrifying. You should have gone on the radio and insulted them for being so utterly crass.

Posted by Ari Spool | June 14, 2007 5:24 PM
3

I agree with Ari. I didn't think it was flippant. Ya did good.

Posted by Chris | June 14, 2007 5:51 PM
4

Gee, I thought I was going to come in and post to your rescue, as it were. But, instead I'll just add to what others have said, and say that I thought your article was not flippant or callous at all. It was objective. Goodonya.

Posted by Brad | June 14, 2007 5:58 PM
5

I wouldn't say it was flippant toward the woman's death. If anything, it was callous toward the guy who didn't report the death for three days. In that case, it's deserved.

Posted by keshmeshi | June 14, 2007 6:14 PM
6

Please, people, it was a run of the mill tabloid piece selling its readers the spectacle of an unusual death. This kind of opportunistic journalism is inherently flippant and callous towards everyone involved.

That said, I respect Jonah for expressing misgivings about the story. If only more tabloid journalists were capable of humanizing their subjects.

Posted by Sean | June 14, 2007 8:07 PM
7

I don't see anything to fault you for, Jonah. The other blogger and the dude who couldn't, you know, figure out how to dial 9-1-1, well, they're a different story.

Posted by anarkallisti | June 14, 2007 8:20 PM
8

Y'know, when a journalist offers condolences and weepy words, it can backfire. I wrote a sad, sympathetic post about a death in San Francisco a few days ago and the comments turned into a brawl: http://www.sfist.com/2007/06/05/and_now_some_ve.php

You can't please everyone. I think the tone of the original piece was entirely appropriate.

Posted by mattymatt | June 14, 2007 9:14 PM
9

Uh, is no one going to point out what a racist asshole that Portland blogger is?

Posted by Blog Junkie | June 14, 2007 9:31 PM
10

Blog Junkie,

Shrugs. I kinda thought that spoke for itself.

Posted by anarkallisti | June 14, 2007 9:55 PM
11

Contact with radio shock jocks can make anyone feel slimy, even if they have done nothing wrong. In this case, you've done nothing wrong.

Posted by ali | June 14, 2007 10:19 PM
12

Am I the only one that sees this as murder. People don't die from pot.

Posted by Touring | June 14, 2007 10:30 PM
13

My "sincerest condolences" go out to any pansy who has to broadcast such bullshit over the internet.

Posted by what is and what isn't | June 14, 2007 10:37 PM
14

What is up with this "Jack" blogger guy in Portland, does he find being a racist is funny? What a creep!

Posted by WhatThe? | June 14, 2007 11:05 PM
15

What is up with this "Jack" blogger guy in Portland, does he find being a racist is funny? What a creep!

Posted by whatthe | June 14, 2007 11:06 PM
16

a couple years ago Charles wrote in Police Beat about the death of a woman who jumped out of a window downtown. He spoke very lightly of the suicide. His piece focused on the coffee cup left behind and the meaning of it's lonely half-consumed contents. The woman was someone i worked with and a beloved member of the community. Having known the woman, his piece struck me as one of the most offensive and thoughtless things I had ever read. I don't think the article in this post was anywhere near as flippant as that column, but I'm glad to read that someone at the Stranger has had a moment of recognition of the grieving human beings (likely Stranger readers) left behind every tragic Seattle story.

Posted by sari | June 14, 2007 11:36 PM
17

...and now we return you to our regularly programmed schedule
"Captain Universe vs. Thong Woman!"

Posted by fanny | June 15, 2007 12:04 AM
18

i JUST FIRST READ THIS(BECAUSE ME AND MY GIRLFIREND JUST HAD AN ARGUMENT AND I'M BUZZED AND FLASH BACKING TO THE WAR EXPERIENCE I HAD AFTER LOSING MY WIFE TO A DEATH WHILE OVERSEAS FIGHTING FOR MY COUNTRY AND ....)
Kill Bill 'Silloette of Doom' by Ennio Morricone playing in the background.
My condolences to the family also. Man thats gotta suck! And I gotta keep a piece of mind? wheres my meds?

Posted by DreadLion | June 15, 2007 1:03 AM
19

Everything is better now .....just think all the love in the world if thats all we we have we need nothing more....
Lois Armstrong 'We have all the time in the World'
peace

Posted by DreadLion | June 15, 2007 1:05 AM
20

charles always writes offensive and thoughtless crap. its charles!

Posted by Bellevue Ave | June 15, 2007 1:09 AM
21

Ok a better song for all this that will i think help....
Hank Williams senior 'I'm sorry for you my freind'....
"Time has turned the tide..."
waaaah, damn it, screw it i'm back to my beer and fear

Posted by DreadLion | June 15, 2007 1:20 AM
22

Sorry Dread is goin nuts.....
Hank Williams 'Six more miles ...to the graveyard...leave the best friend I've ever had...."
now I'm feel better...

Posted by DreadLion | June 15, 2007 1:26 AM
23

Blondie 'In the Flesh' now I'm gonna...

Posted by DreadLion | June 15, 2007 1:58 AM
24

"a couple years ago Charles wrote in Police Beat about the death of a woman who jumped out of a window downtown. He spoke very lightly of the suicide. His piece focused on the coffee cup left behind and the meaning of it's lonely half-consumed contents. The woman was someone i worked with and a beloved member of the community. Having known the woman, his piece struck me as one of the most offensive and thoughtless things I had ever read. I don't think the article in this post was anywhere near as flippant as that column, but I'm glad to read that someone at the Stranger has had a moment of recognition of the grieving human beings (likely Stranger readers) left behind every tragic Seattle story."


Point us to the original article please.

Posted by Tiffany | June 15, 2007 2:06 AM
25

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsWRRhxL838&mode=related&search=

This is my ghost of my love Gabrielle reincarnated...its all I got left of this world. Thank gods

Posted by DreadLion | June 15, 2007 3:11 AM
26
Posted by DreadLion | June 15, 2007 3:16 AM
27

DL, I think you may have been drunk enough to mispost.

The 'Now I Am Drunk' forums are here.

Posted by Jessica | June 15, 2007 6:39 AM
28

I once got into an argument with an Englishwoman about the IRA, wherein she fell back to the position that I couldn't possibly know what it was like to live with the kind of terror her and her compatriots had dealt with during the Troubles. I did a quick bit of research and determined that the death rate by terrorism in Northern Ireland during the Troubles was about half the current murder rate in New York City, the safest large city in the United States. At which point I was able to employ the dubious argument that not only do I know what it's like, but that a death rate like that is considered background noise in my country.

Compared to pretty much any other industrialized nation, the United States is like an old Loony Toons cartoon, with all the shooting and organized crime and accidents that go on here. It's hard, sometimes, not to laugh when someone jumps out of a window, lands on a giant spring and splatters against the ceiling. But when crazy shit happens, it's still always a person.

In any event, I generally can't help myself either.

Just a thought.

Posted by Judah | June 15, 2007 7:05 AM
29

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=20376

i was a bit off about the coffee cup being the focus- that's what stuck in my memory, but the tone is just what i remembered.

Posted by sari | June 15, 2007 7:35 AM
30

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=20376

i was a bit off about the coffee cup being the focus- that's what stuck in my memory, but the tone is just what i remembered.

Posted by sari | June 15, 2007 7:35 AM
31

#27 sorry bout all that everyone. what happened last night? oh well.... it is friday and I've found new energy. What am I doing here? time to go back and watch Japanese enko music to tide my
blues away. Girlfreind and I made up.
College studies ....

Posted by DreadLion | June 15, 2007 8:13 AM
32

@16

He spoke very lightly of the suicide. His piece focused on the coffee cup left behind and the meaning of it's lonely half-consumed contents.

This is why I despise him.

Posted by Mr. Poe | June 15, 2007 8:20 AM
33

Wow, summer vacation really brings out the posters... 30 odd of um overnight. Must be somesort of a record, except DreadLion posted most of them. Hope DL's hangover ain't as half-as-bad as I'm thinking it is.

oh yeah. The article. The article is well written, but flippant in its editorializing,. The flippantness: What could possibly possess a sane person to keep a body in his home for days?. Saying the fellow was "sane" is a value judgment on yours, or perhaps, the police officer's part.

News Writing and Gathering 101 teaches that unless you or the source is a qualified professional (as in this case, a source would have needed to be a mental health worker, a doctor, or some such professional) then qualifying adjectives (as in this case: “insane” or “sane”) should not be used. The use, the flippant use, of a medically diagnostic adjective (the word “sane”) without a professional source, is called “EDITORIALIZING”. You don’t have a source qualified enough to judge the dude sane or insane. Without that, his “sane” condition is hearsay and for all we the reads know, fictional.


But then, the article was written for The Stranger and not the AP. I doubt the editorial controls at this paper give much of a fuck about editorializing or COMM101 styles (or maybe they do, but as in “not enough of opinions passing for news”)


It does suck to be you on this one, Jonah. At least you did respect the deceased and it’s the shock jocks and bloggers to blame, but you are a reporter. Shock jocks and bloggers depend upon The Stranger’s editorializing (as much as any other printed source, to be fair to The Stranger) for topical fodder. And you do write for a newspaper of source, for some people anyways.


At least there is some comfort in that one of her children thought enough of you to think that you were a good person to contact. That’s a small victory for ya’.

Posted by Phenics | June 15, 2007 8:55 AM
34

@ 16. The Stranger’s job is not to report every factual news event like some daily newspaper but to report with an interesting or creative angle. Sorry you knew the person but I was intrigued by the article but it did leave me wanting more info. Did they catch and arrest the man in the suit that may have pushed her? He did not mention that suicides at the Warwick happen quite often like the Aurora Bridge.
Here is an article about that 2005 story that provides more background:
http://www.realchangenews.org/2005/2005_02_16/current/community1.html

Posted by Touring | June 15, 2007 8:57 AM
35

Please, Stranger writers, don't ever listen to folks like Phenics here at 33... As you know, there are already plenty of "journalists" out there who have taken 101 and can report on some tragic story objectively without this evil editorializing he speaks of. No "sane" person goes to the Stranger for unbiased news, we come here for the unique angles and perspectives. You all do it well (for the most part), keep that up.

Also, in a parting shot to Phenics, while you were lecturing about "good journalism" you failed to mention that the majority of these objectively written stories are on subjects chosen not because of their relevance to anyone's life but for their likelihood to draw readers. Why rail against the style that a story about a strange tragedy was written when the entire point of any story written about it is sensationalism? Or is that a Journalism 201 issue..?

Posted by bernstein | June 15, 2007 9:55 AM
36

@28,

Was that per capita? And what was the regular murder rate in Northern Ireland at the time? I think your research and analysis are a little flawed.

Posted by keshmeshi | June 15, 2007 10:40 AM
37

Bernstein - I have to take issue with an oversight you make: By not typing the word "Mudede" in your comment, you taunt his two lampreys Mr. Poe and Bellvue Ave with silence - in an unrelated post.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | June 15, 2007 10:55 AM
38

Lampreys are awesome. Fact!

Posted by Bellevue Ave | June 15, 2007 12:07 PM
39

Laaaampreyss! FUCK YEAH!

Posted by Mr. Poe | June 15, 2007 2:46 PM
40

Damn Mr. Clydesdale, you're right. Point taken. That said, Lampreys ARE awesome, in a creepy parasitic way.


(Mudede)

Posted by Bernstein | June 15, 2007 4:36 PM
41
Was that per capita? And what was the regular murder rate in Northern Ireland at the time? I think your research and analysis are a little flawed.

You mean because you actually know what the fuck you're talking about, or just because you thought to ask that question?

I was talking about the murder rate per 100,000 people per year, which is the usual way to measure a murder rate. And the murder rate in Northern Ireland, like the murder rate in most of the UK, is and was about an order of magnitude lower than in the United States overall. So, take 1968, just for an example. In 1968, the murder rate across the whole US (nevermind in the cities) was 6.9 murders per 100,000 people. The murder rate in Northern Ireland in 1968 was .33 murders per 100,000 people. So the murder rate across the whole US was 20 times higher than in Northern Ireland.

At the height of the Troubles, the combined total of murder plus IRA-related killings in Northern Ireland worked out to 24.58 deaths per 100,000 people in 1972. That same year the murder rate in Chicago was 27 people per 100,000. But the thing is, the year Northern Ireland was at 24.58 was considered the height of a WAR. That was pretty much their worst year in the whole thing. Whereas we still lose about that many people in Chicago every year. So if you average the number out over the whole course of the conflict, it works out to, yeah, something like 6 per 100,000 per year. Which is lower than New York's murder rate is now.

All of which you could've looked up in about 5 minutes if you weren't so busy coming up with phrases like "research and analysis" to hide the fact that you're too stupid to use Google. But thanks for asking that question. I didn't have anything better to do with five minutes of my life than answer it.

Posted by Judah | June 15, 2007 11:48 PM
42

@41, Wow, I had no idea Chicago is such a safe place to live compared to where I live! I really need to consider moving. Do you really mean that there are big cities where there haven't been two or three murders within a couple of blocks of what would be my home in the last few years? (Guess what Judah, I'm not being facetious). Are there even safer big cities (read Gay) where I can get a job easily and afford to buy a house? I'm not being a dick, I'm just asking.

Posted by lawrence clark | June 16, 2007 2:23 AM

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