I wrote the below article to the Miami Herald back in March 1997 as an assignment in a course being taken at Miami-Dade Community College. What I did not expect was that the Miami Herald called and invited me to a ‘open-house’ geared to the public on how articles and headlines are chosen for the daily newspaper. More importantly though, I saw the Miami Herald change (even temporarily) its approach and and began to feature stories of perseverance in middle of of hardship and struggle. I will post pics of the newspapers which followed.
Mr. Jim Hampton
The Miami Herald
Dear Mr. Hampton:
Our society today is titillated by blood, bodies and bombs. Often it is the causalities that make the headlines and front pages, and oddly enough, frequently come with a caution to excuse the explicit scenes, which really is a hype for what is to come. We are fascinated with murder, suicide and tragic death that we almost idolise the victims-even if the victim is the perpetrator.
Front page The Miami Herald Friday March 21, 1997: A family destroyed- double murder and suicide is given prominence with a quarter page article on subsequent page. Sunday March 23, 1997: The Miami Herald features suicide notes in an article covering over two thirds of a page.
Have we gone over-board with our empathy with the victims? I really prefer to call them perpetrators, and give them a sure fire way to make the next morning’s front page almost with dignity.
Is suicide a crime in this country, and do we sometimes justify the deed because of depression? How soon will it be before we begin to sympathize with murderers who have become movie stars and authors, entitled to royalties even while in prison.
Rene Rodriguez a movie critic makes a salient point commenting recently on Selena the movie. He feels that it would not exist today was it not for her untimely death. Public empathy supported by media prominence and speculation have fueled the flame of stardom.
Robert ‘Bob’ Marley the reggae ambassador of Jamaica is third in posthumous earnings worldwide. He became a superstar after terminal illness and death years ago.
It seems that life is too dull without a little speculation thrown in- What if he/she had…? The unknowns are made into stars when it seems profitable.
This preoccupation with death is not peculiar to our generation or even modern society. In a few days the christian faith will commemorate the crucifixion of their victor Christ Jesus, who’s teachings and life was validated by his death and resurrection. Pilate the Roman Governor was influenced by the masses to release Barabas, the rebel and murderer and what of Christ? Crucify him! Crucify him!
Where will it all end if continued unchecked? We may soon lament at the monster with an insatiable hunger for more and more gore, created by the appetizers now being served by the media and entertainment.
News must be reported, but society is now shock proof with gore and gruesome details. What is needed is balance; an unearthing of unsung living heroes that have quietly endured hardships of depression, despair, debacle and loneliness and have triumphed.