Monday, December 03, 2007
Today was the funeral of Sean Taylor, aired live on several local stations. I watched as his family, his teammates, his longtime girlfriend fought to get through the three-and-a-half hour service without breaking down. Some were successful. But most weren't.
Tears stung my eyes, while some spilled onto the cheeks of a coworker. It was hard. It was heartbreaking. A supervisor said she wasn't watching specifically because she didn't want to end up sobbing at her desk. And I wanted to turn away myself at times.
But what was keeping me glued in? The fact that for once, in this terrible, terrible week, Sean Taylor was being remembered for what he truly was, by people who truly knew him. Not being analyzed by desk-dwelling anchors. Not being examined by columnists who didn't know him personally. And not being dragged into the tired news narrative that implies everytime a young black man dies, it must have been because of the nature of his "thug" lifestyle.
Luckily, for Sean, his family and his memory, I wasn't the only one choked with frustration. With a bit of a swarm of media people at the service, those who had the opportunity took the chance to bite back at everyone who "reported" on Sean's "thug lifestyle" throughout the week.
Otis Wallace, the mayor of Florida City summed up the sentiment -- saying the media should be ashamed for jumping to conclusions merely on speculation. And he added that he hopes "the media gets a small lesson in grace and humility" from it all.
At my desk, I nodded in agreement and said a quiet "thank you." And an arena-full of mourners stood to applaud, loudly.
But I couldn't help but wonder -- how many times will that quote show up in tomorrow's papers? Will journalists be willing to examine themselves, just as critically as they examined Sean?
I did a Google search. The Washington Post's Jason La Canfora is the only one so far to do so, in his Redskins Insider blog.
I hope it won't stay that way.
When Sean was first wounded, journalists found it necessary report legal woes from years ago, stemming from an incident where he allegedly brandished a gun while trying to keep men from stealing his property. Some, in Sean's death, found it necessary to recount the times he got in trouble on the field. Their implication -- that Sean fell to a lifestyle that, as his loved ones say, he actually wasn't involved in.
So will those same journalists feel the need to report on the open criticism of their work (used loosely) at Sean's service? Will they note that Wallace's words, and the same sentiment from other speakers, drew the some loudest, most earnest applause?
I hope so. We're supposed to report the full story, right?continue...