Putting grief in proportion
So, I can understand how his shocked and bereaved colleagues were determined to pay him a heartfelt tribute in the pages of their paper, the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, NY.
Not only did they turn page one of Monday’s paper into a full-size poster of Mike, but they also devoted most of pages 2, 3, 4, 5, 16 and 17 to articles about or by him. The paper’s web site was packed with even more stories, photos, videos and remembrances.
Although the extensive coverage is tastefully and sincerely presented, it raises the question of whether the staff, in its grief, lost its sense of proportion.
As fine a husband, father, journalist and friend as Mike was, did his passing rate exponentially more ink than the death of any other member of his community?
In giving one of their own a bigger send-off than likely would be accorded a mayor, plumber, homemaker, shopkeeper or schoolteacher, is the newspaper subliminally saying that the lives and deeds of journalists are more important than those of lesser mortals? Is that the elitist message journalists want to send while newspapers are suffering historic declines in confidence and patronage?
A sense of proportion in news coverage is increasingly rare in these days of YouTubed hangings, fulminating blogs and frothing cable commentators. Newspapers are unique among all the media, in that they have the time and resources to report, evaluate and thoughtfully present the news.
They, and we, can’t afford for them to lose their grip when times get tough.