Wednesday, July 02, 2014

packing the bags

Speaking of inquiring minds (and, at least, I was at the close of yesterday's post), have you ever wondered about the source of those stories in The National Enquirer.  The ones that litter checkout counters?

I always thought most of them were made up.  But, after reading a very odd story in a reputable newspaper on Saturday, I am not so certain.

By now, most of you have heard the basic story and know that there is an Oregon link to tale we are about to discuss.  But, set all of that aside, and take a look at the version I first encountered.

Purportedly, a professional AP journalist wrote these two paragraphs.  I will let the piece speak for itself.

Two women whose remains were found stuffed in suitcases along a rural Wisconsin highway may have have died accidentally, perhaps during consensual sex, the defense attorney for a former police officer suspected in their deaths said Friday.
OK.  I know I said I was not going to interrupt.  But, I can't help it.

This is one of the shoddiest bits of reporting I have read in some time.  By the time you discover that the first part of the sentence is merely the rambling theory of an attorney trying to save his client's bacon, the reader has been led to believe that it is an established fact that two women may have died in some odd form of consensual sex involving suitcases.

The sentence, of course, should have led with a clear statement that what the reader is about to see is a self-serving statement, other than the first draft of a tabloid headline.

Our anonymous stringer goes on to inform us:

Steven Zelich, a 52-year old security officer, has been charged with two counts of hiding a corpse.  Zelich previously was involved in an incident with a prostitute, according to police records, and authorities have said he may have met one of the women in the suitcases on a bondage website.
Where is the AP stringer's editor in all this?  Reducing the victims to "women in the suitcases," and then topping it off with nothing more than a frosting of police speculation? 

The story is a tragedy.  Two women are dead, and the best that the story can do is slap together a bit of tabloid tittle-tattle.

I realize I tend to get on my high horse about the state of modern journalism.  The problem, of course, is that there is no real journalistic center to the story.  It is merely a bit of filler to titillate the rubes in the hood.

To the credit of several journalists who have followed up on the portion of the story involving the identity of one of the women from Oregon, they have shown a sense of compassion while fleshing out the rest of the tale.

And that is a good point for me to dismount from my horse.

There are tales to tell of Oregon revelry.  And I will get to that tomorrow.

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