The methods used to report on serious crimes in the modern media have been a pet peeve of mine for years, and it has led to more than a few long conversations with copy, news and managing editors over time.
And, while there may finally be a bit of light at the end of the tunnel – coming from the United States in the wake of two more senseless mass murders in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas – the change will be long and painful, if it happens at all.
As an example of what I’m alluding to, ask yourself two questions.
You may know O.J. Simpson was charged with the murder (found not guilty in criminal proceedings during a long, televised ‘trial of the century’) of an ex-romantic partner and her friend, but can you name the two victims?
A lot closer to home, the names of Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod are burned into the public’s mind forever, following the manhunt in Northern Manitoba for the two young men suspected of killing three people.
In fact, many people had themselves twisted in knots over the international media referring to them as teenagers – the two were aged 18 and 19 respectively – instead of young men, which, of course, quickly became a race issue with many stating they were being referred to as teenagers because they were white.
They were referred to as teenagers because anyone 18 or 19 years of age is, in fact, a teenager, no matter what their race, creed or colour.
The question, however, remains the same. in asking yourself: what are the names of the three people the two are suspected of killing?
Do you know how many of the three victims are Canadian?
During the pure evil that was the gun massacres in Dayton and El Paso, at least two major American networks agreed to only name the shooter and show his image on the screen once in both cases.
Contrast that to what you’ve seen, heard or read in Canada on the Manitoba manhunt and you get a vivid image of how the reporting has been done in the past, and where, just maybe, it may be headed in the future.
Make no mistake about it, the approach was force-fed to begin with in the States, but, as coverage rolled on 24/7 concerning the two mass shootings, more and more was learned about a number of those who lost their lives during that horrific 36-hour span.
Arguably, none were more compelling than that of Andre Anchondo, his wife, Jordan, and their two-month-old son.
Andre – who, himself, had fought hard to overcome drug addiction – was a fiercely loving husband and father.
Facing sure death, Andre tried to shield his wife and baby boy by jumping in front of Jordan as the gunman approached spewing death in every direction.
Andre was shot numerous times trying to shield Jordan, but the power of the assault-style firearms saw the bullets pass through his body and strike the love of his life, killing her almost instantly.
Their son survived, suffering a few broken bones from his mother falling on him as she clutched him tightly to her bosom, trying to shield him from the bullets.
We learned that one victim, Nicholas Cumer, was a graduate student in the master-of-cancer-care program at Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania and was interning at a Dayton facility for people battling cancer when the shooter took his life.
And we learned that 27-year-old Lois Oglesby was in nursing school; ready to embark on a journey looking forward to a career that would make the most of her love for children.
These are but four of the caring, loving people who lost their lives to a pair of cowards. It is their names – their stories – that should live on for generations.
Hopefully, there, that’s the manner of reporting that will form the template for the modern media when it’s forced to report on these brutal, tragic and senseless acts of horrific violence.
However, as the great-uncle of one of the Canadian killers steps into the glare of the spotlight of the damned – while the names and faces of the two young killers seem to be everywhere – there’s still a long, long ways to go before the names of the victims – their hopes, their dreams – are the ones remembered, and the names of every harbingers of evil are lost for all time.
I say, they should burn in hell anonymously.