Thursday, September 8, 2011

Human Interest Stories

As I referenced in my poem about my Grandpa's death, the local news picked up the story. I'm fairly certain it was on the evening news that night; at the very least it was front page of the local section the next morning. By the time I got to school, everyone knew. Or rather, everyone thought they knew.

They knew the details of the attack. If they read the whole article, they knew that my Grandpa had led a productive life by societal standards. They knew that my uncle had been arrested after being found in his room.

They didn't know my Grandpa, the gentle, open-minded man who kept a jar of candy for his grand-kids and could recite more than two dozen poems. They didn't know my uncle, the creative man who told fantastic stories and kept a huge aquarium of fish in the basement. They didn't know my mom, who kept herself together to do what she could to protect her son and her little brother from horror. They just didn't know.

My mom, now with a grandchild of her own.

I understand that the rest of those details aren't news. But they are important, and without them the story seems so skewed as to be false. The story of the mentally ill man who killed his elderly father, a retired dean of the local college, wasn't my story at all. It was sensational, with graphic details, but it wasn't real.

I gained a better understanding of news media. They tell what sells, not necessarily what is important. Now when I read headlines of shootings and fires, I wonder about the families involved, both of the victims and the perpetrators. I have learned compassion, which is another gift from my Grandpa. I know it's something he would want me to keep.

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